COVID-19 regulatory position statement on storing excess waste on unpermitted sites

(UPDATE - RPS withdrawn on 1st October 2020) On 4th May 2020, the Environment Agency published a regulatory position statement, RPS C17, temporarily permitting waste operators to store any excess waste which has accumulated on site due to coronavirus restrictions, on an unpermitted site that is also controlled by the operator.

There are, however, certain conditions which must be satisfied in order for operators to be covered by the position statement.

When does RPS C17 apply?

The position statement applies where Covid-19 restrictions mean that operators will exceed the waste storage capacity at the permitted site or the storage limits of a registered waste exemption for a T1 to T32 or S1 and S2 exemption.

RPS C17 only applies to waste which is already allowed under the permit or the specified registered exemptions. Operators must be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to avoid relying on the position statement. Reasonable steps include having a contingency plan so operators can continue to comply with their permit or registered waste exemptions and identifying an alternative site with a suitable permit or waste exemption and prioritising storing waste at that site.

The contingency plan must minimise the need to store waste at the unpermitted site or the need to store above the levels permitted under the relevant exemptions. It should also minimise the amount of waste being stored without a permit or in excess of storage levels. Any waste stored in line with RPS C17 must not be stored for any longer than necessary and the contingency plan must set out how operators will minimise the storage period.

What does RPS C17 do?

It permits operators who satisfy the above to temporarily store waste at an unpermitted site that they control. In relation to the exceedance of storage limits of registered waste exemptions, the position statement allows operators to temporarily exceed the storage limits of their registered waste exemption for a T1 to T32 or S1 and S2 exemption.

What isn’t covered RPS C17?

RPS C17 only covers the situations specified above. It does not exempt operators from any other environmental legal obligations, for examples those relating Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH), hazardous substances consents and Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). The position statement does not apply to any activity other than the storage of waste in the circumstances set out above. Operators must still have, and comply with, permits or licences for other activities they carry out.

What steps should operators take if RPS C17 applies to their business?

In the first instance, operators must have the written agreement of the landowner (if they do not own the land in question) that they can store waste on the temporary site. Once they have this permission, operators must email the Environment Agency and receive their approval before they can store waste on an unpermitted site or exceed the storage limits permitted under the relevant exemptions.

The Environment Agency will need the postcode or grid reference for the exact location of the waste storage site and the extent of the site including the site boundaries. They will also need to approve the waste type and quantity which will be stored on the temporary site in advance. Operators must ensure that the temporary site is secure and that the waste is stored within the site boundary. When assessing whether to issue an approval, the Environment Agency will consider the operator’s compliance history.

What documents do operators need to produce under RPS C17?

Operators must ensure that the waste will be stored in a way which meets the objectives of the current fire prevention guidance. They are required to have a written system in place to prevent, detect, contain and mitigate fires. Furthermore, operators must carry out a written risk assessment and identify how any risks will affect people and the environment. All reasonable steps must be taken to mitigate those risks. If these risks cannot be managed, the site will be deemed unsuitable.

Operators must keep records of the amount of waste stored at any one time, along with the waste codes and descriptions. These records must be retained for 2 years and be made available to the Environment Agency on request. These records are vital and will evidence that no waste other than the types authorised by the permit or the relevant exemptions have been accepted on site. These records will also show that the amount of waste on site has not exceeded the amount agreed by the Environment Agency. If operators do not keep these records, they will risk enforcement action.

When does RPS C17 expire?

The regulatory position statement will stay in place until 30th September 2020, unless the Environment Agency decides an extension is necessary. All waste must be removed from the unpermitted site by the expiry date and storage levels must be in compliance with the limits under the registered exemptions.

Does RPS C17 apply to your business? If you need advice on the regulatory position statement and how it can help your business during the pandemic, why not contact us?