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Soaring landfill costs threaten brownfield development

News

THE WASTE management industry this week warned that disposal costs for hazardous waste are set to treble when new European legislation comes into force in mid-July.

Site operators have warned that the disposal cost for construction and demolition waste will increase from £30-40 per tonne to £70-90 per tonne.

The construction industry warned that such a rise may make brownfield site development uneconomic.

From 16 July landfill operators will no longer be able to accept both hazardous and nonhazardous wastes in one site.

The ban is in accordance with the 1999 European Union (EU) Landfill Directive's hazardous wastes section (NCE 2 October 2003).

At present 67 sites are licensed by the Environment Agency. By the implementation date the Agency estimates that 10-15 will be licenced to accept hazardous waste. These will represent around 40% of current capacity.

But with one month to go before the ban kicks in there are just five sites with the necessary licence, and two of these will only process asbestos.

The waste industry is reluctant to apply for licences because waste acceptance criteria, which specify the level to which waste must be treated before going into fill, have yet to be agreed.

These should have been finalised on 16 July, but delays in getting agreement at EU level mean the criteria will not be finalised for at least a year.

Site operators are reluctant to invest in infrastructure until they are sure of the requirements.

'This is an example of the government not taking the issue seriously enough and not consistently thinking policies through, ' said Peter Jones, director of waste management firm Biffa.

In total just 18 sites have applied for the new licence, and many of these face planning problems. The ICE has this week called on the government to cut through this process (see box).

The new legislation will also change the definition of hazardous waste to include more waste types, increasing costs further.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association also this week raised fears that transportation costs could rise by as much as 100% as material is shipped to far-flung sites.

Developers may then be deterred from redeveloping brownfield sites, said Arup associate Hugh Cherrill.

'It may make the development of contaminated sites economically unviable, ' he said. 'We could have a big problem.'

But contractors contacted by NCE said it was too early to predict what the impact would be.

'Nobody knows what's going to happen, ' said demolition contractor Keltbray's transport manager, Peter Trivet. 'We might be looking at increased costs, but we'll have to grin and bear it.'

The Environment Agency said industry was 'missing the point' of the legislation, which is to reduce dependence on landfill.

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