The abandonment of large amounts of waste on land, docksides or in warehouses has become all too familiar. While the curse of fly-tipping and illegal sites is recognised, the problem is being exacerbated by the abandonment of waste at sites that are or were regulated under an environmental permit or a registered exemption. Inevitably abandoned waste posed an environmental risk of one form or another and hinders the legitimate use of land.

The former Waste4Fuel site in Bromley is a classic example. The operator had an environmental permit, filled the site to the gunnels, then abandoned the site and the waste and went into liquidation causing absolute misery to local residents. The permit was latterly revoked by the Environment Agency, leaving 20,000 tonnes of mixed waste that repeatedly caught fire costing the Fire Service around £1m and is being cleared four years later at a cost to the public purse of £2.7m.

Waste4Fuel is but one example. There are other significant cases of waste abandonment at so-called “regulated” sites.

There is concern that the scale of waste abandonment is increasing. This may be, in part, as a result of the regulator’s enforcement approach against those who have been stockpiling waste and the move to require waste to be stored in accordance with fire prevention plans.

Of further concern is that those responsible are not necessarily being pursued to remove the abandoned waste, even when they are well-known to the regulator, thus leaving the cost of removing potentially polluting material to generally (but not always) innocent landlords or landowners. While in some cases the offenders are eventually convicted and punished for the offence, in none of the highlighted cases did they clear the waste.

But do we know how much abandoned waste there is, the level of risk it poses and how much is being cleared? While some abandoned waste sites have been well documented and characterised, seemingly most haven’t.

From an Article by John Galvin MBE and published in CIWM Journal, May 2017


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