Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Waste Technology and Innovation Study

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Other Waste Innovations

  1. Regulation and Guidelines

Governments and regulators have taken a number of different measures to control waste disposal and encourage recovery. These have included direct regulation but also other measures.
        1. Waste to Energy

The increasing popularity of waste to energy (WtE) technology in Europe has seen necessary regulatory shifts to accommodate the opportunities that it can deliver. By 2006 there were about 370 WtE plants in Europe treating 59 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per year. One of the complicating factors of WtE is that it falls into both waste and energy policy areas. Investment in this technology requires extensive planning and regulatory and policy certainty. Several new pieces of European legislation address these issues.

The Waste Framework Directive (WFD) specifies the exact criteria that WtE plant operators must fulfil for their plant to be classified as an ‘energy recovery’ operation, putting them higher up the waste hierarchy than waste disposal. This also gives an incentive for plants which do not yet achieve the thresholds of the WFD to improve energy efficiency.

The Industrial Emissions Directive looks forward to the amalgamation of several other directives relating to incineration and pollution control, to standardise methods for calculating emissions levels. It does not set emissions limits, which will be left to authorities in member states.

An ‘Energy Package’ of three proposals is now before the European Commission. These go towards achieving the EU’s targets of 20% energy from renewable sources, plus 20% reduction of CO2 emissions, by 2020. The package includes a directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, a directive to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading system and a decision on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments.

As always there is disagreement between the members, for example some members would like waste facilities included in the EU Emissions Trading System. There is also concern about the proposal to change the definition of biomass, which if approved would define biomass as ‘separately collected’, material. This would mean that residual material that remains after source separation and recycling would not be included. This has implications for the production of energy from the biodegradable part of municipal waste which is recognised as renewable energy under another directive.158

        1. E-waste

The quantity and potential toxicity of electronic waste has prompted regulatory intervention in a number of cases. Most well known is the WEEE Directive in Europe, although there is mixed opinion on how successful it has been.

Without no Federal legislation or direction in the US, some individual states have developed their own e-waste legislation. At April 2007 Arkansas, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Rhode Island had all banned e-waste to landfill and California, Maine, Maryland and Washington had comprehensive e-waste recycling legislation.159 Californias Electronic Waste Recycling Act is modelled on the European WEEE (Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directives160 and includes advanced recycling fees, up-front payments made by consumers that cover the cost of recycling the computer they have just bought. In addition, many states have commenced e-waste collection and recycling systems for the residential and business sectors.161

In May 2009, Indiana passed major electronics recycling law which includes a 'producer take-back' scheme. All manufacturers of TVs, monitors and laptops must collect and recycle 60% of the volume of products they sold the previous year in Indiana. After two years manufacturers that have not achieved these targets will pay additional recycling fees.162

In Turkey laws have been enacted to comply with EU Directive 2006/66/EC that regulates the labelling and marking of all battery and accumulator products and reduces harmful substances in their production, transport and disposal. The law only covers commercial and industrial uses, not household uses.

The US state of Rhode Island has established a manufacturer-financed collection, recycling and reuse system for electronic waste that covers new computers, televisions and monitors. Manufacturers that do not comply with the new law are banned from selling in the state.163

        1. Waste Definitions and Standards

Changing the legal definition of waste can change responsibilities for certain wastes and how they are handled. In October 2008 the US EPA did this by changing the definitions of hazardous waste in the regulation of hazardous secondary materials. The regulation excludes materials from the federal hazardous waste system if they are used or sent for legitimate recovery. The aim of this measure was to encourage recycling. Metals and solvent recycling will be most affected.164

Industry has also moving towards standardising waste. The European Recovered Paper Association (ERPA), the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) and the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) have implemented the Recovered Paper Identification System. Recovered paper suppliers can register for a unique code to be added to their recovered paper bales to enable the suppliers of paper purchased, received, stored and consumed in paper mills to be identified. This will makes sure that the right raw materials are used to produce high quality products. Previously bilateral agreements had been in place that varied from company to company and country to country. This system will be used across Europe and the world so that the supplier and grade of every bale of recovered paper is clearly identified and recorded.165,166

        1. AWT Risk Assessment Guidelines

The UK Environment Agency has funded the development of tighter risk assessment procedures for composting and organic waste treatment sites as a result of concern over the impact of waste processing issues such as odour and bio-aerosols. The new guidelines will change the way UK waste operators carry out their risk assessments. Only new sites are likely to be affected.167
        1. Simplifying Regulation

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has simplified its waste law into three sets of regulations:

  • the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations;

  • the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (WEEE); and

  • the Trans Frontier Shipment Regulations (TFS).

The regulations reduce the amount of reporting required and avoid duplication.168
        1. Waste Facility Guidelines

The UK Department of Environment Food and Regional Affairs (DEFRA) and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), have released design guidelines for organisations interested in developing or building waste facilities. The guidelines cover all types of waste facilities from small community and municipal compost units to large-scale heat and power generators and provide advice on key design principles, best practice and consulting the public.169
        1. Bans and Prohibitions

In order to stimulate recycling and promote safer handling and disposal, Metro Vancouver170 has banned cardboard, paper, gypsum, car batteries, paints and solvents, flammable liquids and gasoline, pesticides, tyres, oil and oil filters, green waste, beverage containers, pharmaceuticals and electronic waste from landfill.171

China’s State Council has prohibited shops, supermarkets and sales outlets across the country from handing out free plastic bags and has banned the production, sale, and use of ultra-thin plastic bags under 0.025 millimetres thick. Penalties include closing businesses down, fines and confiscation of goods and profits.172

Shop keepers and other businesses in the town of Bundanoon in NSW, have agreed to ban bottled water from being sold in local shops. Local councils across Australia may also ban sales of bottled water in order to reduce the amount of plastic bottles generated and disposed of. There are no plans to ban the sale of other drinks and products sold in plastic bottles.

        1. Buy Back Schemes

To encourage Canadians to stop using old polluting vehicles, the Canadian Government has set up a US$ 92 million fund to reward those who voluntarily scrap their vehicles.173

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