Update on the Management of Construction Soil and Stone Waste

Director, Housing, Planning and Development Services, CIF, James Benson outlines the latest national guidance on the classification of soil and stone.

As construction activity grows, the industry is facing costly issues in the treatment of construction and demolition waste, the management of soil and stone material, and the limited capacity in available facilities.

Waste Facility Capacity Increases Insufficient

The CIF welcomes the recent increase in threshold limits for waste facility permits for soil and stone. These came into operation on 11th September. The maximum quantity of ‘Class 5 material’ that can be recovered under a waste facility permit issued by a local authority will increase from 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes maximum over a facility’s lifetime. Each local authority will continue to be responsible for all decisions on waste facility permits within their functional area. Each local authority may specify a maximum lifetime intake of up to 200,000 tonnes or less if deemed appropriate.

However, this will not be adequate to meet the requirements of contractors and developers, and several facilities are reaching capacity in autumn of any year. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licenses larger facilities located near areas of activity close to city and urban areas. These often also reach capacity well within their annual time frames, forcing companies to transport waste substantial distances.

Article 27: Soil and Stone

Classification of soil and stone, where appropriate, as a by- product, brings significant economic benefits as the material can be appropriately handled outside of waste legislation. The environmental benefits are also considerable, as the process facilitates the circular economy.

There is still not enough clarity and consistency in the acceptance criteria for Article 27 notifications on soil and stone. The EPA issued ‘Guidance on Soil and Stone By-Products in the Context of Article 27 of the European Communities (Waste Directive) Regulations 2011’ in June 2019. It now clarifies that notifications must be by the material producer or one who makes the notification with the express written consent of the material producer. The guidance calls for all notifications to ensure each and all by-product conditions are met, namely:

  • Further use of the soil and stone is certain;
  • The soil and stone can be used directly without any further processing other than normal industrial practice;
  • The soil and stone are produced as an integral part of a production process; and,
  • Further use is lawful in that the soil and stone fulfil all relevant product, environmental and health protection requirements for the specific use and will not lead to overall adverse environmental or human health

The new guidance also contains an advisory period for determination by the EPA. The EPA will take a risk-based approach to make determinations and will endeavour to make determinations in all cases by either agreeing with the economic operator’s decision or determining that the notified material is a waste. The stated advisory period is 10 weeks from the time of placing on the register, with the potential for a six-week additional consultation period if further clarifications are required.

The CIF has argued that this 10-week time period is excessive. If clarity is to be provided to all notifiers after the initial time periods and additional consultations have lapsed, it would mark the first step forward in streamlining an overly complex process for members. From current assessment of the live register, as of mid- October, no determinations have been made on approximately 50 notifications within the prescribed advisory period.

The industry awaits clarification as to the testing mechanism that should be utilised under the Article 27 process. The CIF issued an all-member circular in June and October detailing contents of the EPA guidance and subsequently hosted two briefing seminars in Dublin and Cork, with Caitriona Collins, Senior Inspector, EPA, presenting details on the new guidance.

Article 28: Declassification of Waste – Crushed Concrete

The CIF is aware that an individual application has been approved by the EPA for the ‘End of Waste Status to Crushed Concrete for Road Planning’. The full extent and details of the application and conditions are currently unknown. However, a positive application finding could provide a roadmap for a potential national application for crushed concrete for industry.

It is known that the timeline from initial consultation through assessment, application, submission, clarification and ultimate decision can take 12 to 18 months, depending on the application. To bring forward and seek approval for a national application would require the above as a minimum, plus an additional three-month European consultation timeline on top of the national judgement period.

Waste Management Policy in Ireland

Ireland’s waste management policy is based on the EU waste hierarchy and includes a range of measures across all five tiers:

  1. Prevention and minimisation
  2. Reuse
  3. Recycling
  4. Recovery
  5. Disposal

The policy provides a roadmap for how Ireland will reduce its dependency on landfill, by putting in place appropriate measures and approaches to reduce waste, while at the same time making the most of opportunities to recover resources from waste. This policy, which is connected to Ireland’s circular economy plan, will go to public consultation in late 2019, with contributions requested from all major stakeholders.

 

For clarification on any of the points raised in this article contact James Benson directly at jbenson@cif.ie

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