Incinerators: Waste Disposal

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th July 2008.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

(1) what requirements his Department imposes on the management of ash residues arising from pyrolysis of (a) biodegradable municipal waste and (b) other waste streams;

(2) what requirements his Department imposes on the management of solid residues arising from the pyrolysis of waste in circumstances where such residues may enter sewage systems;

(3) on how many occasions solid residues arising from the pyrolysis of municipal waste were flushed into the sewage system in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement;

(4) what classification his Department gives to each of the by-products arising from pyrolysis for waste management purposes.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

Incinerators, whether based on pyrolysis or other techniques, produce two main residues called Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) and Air Pollution Control (APC) residues. These waste residues may be recovered or disposed of in an appropriately permitted site or one that benefits from an exemption from the need for an environmental permit in a manner that prevents pollution of the environment or harm to human health. Management of waste residues is also subject to the Duty of Care and where appropriate the Hazardous Waste Regulations and must be transported by a registered waste carrier. Municipal waste incinerators, whether based on pyrolysis or otherwise, do not discharge their residues to sewage systems. Therefore, there are no figures on occasions when the residues were flushed into sewage systems in the last five years.

Sewerage companies have powers to control and reduce discharges of trade effluent into sewers. If they consider a discharge to constitute trade effluent, their consent is required under the provisions of the Water Industry Act 1991. The consent may set conditions and require the elimination or diminution of any specified constituent of the trade effluent before it enters the sewer. Such a discharge without the company's agreement is a criminal offence.

If the sewerage company does not classify the discharge as trade effluent, it is still an offence under section 111 of the 1991 Act, for a person to empty into a public sewer, any matter which is likely to injure the sewer, to interfere with the free flow of its contents or prejudice the treatment and disposal of its contents. Any person who is found guilty of an offence is liable to a fine or imprisonment, or both.

In general, APC residues are classed as hazardous waste. Most IBA is likely to be non-hazardous waste. However, IBA is listed in the European Waste Catalogue as a 'mirror entry'. This means that IBA can be either hazardous or non-hazardous waste. IBA that possesses any one of the 14 hazardous properties (H1-H14) is classified as a hazardous waste and hence subject to Hazardous Waste Regulations.

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