Environmental Services Association chief executive Dirk Hazel told waste management website www.edie.com that there would be 'definite problems' over the coming year due to late implementation of stabilisation standards for hazardous waste. The government has not put in place regulations which will ensure that the waste is pre treated to EU standards - these regulations are due to come into force next year.
"This means we will have an interim period where landfills will be taking waste which has not been stabilised to European standards because the infrastructure to stabilise it has not been built," said Hazel.
The UK has a history of using landfills to dispose of both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes cheaply and easily, but this practice of co-disposal will be banned from 16 July 2004. In addition, from 16 July 2004, all hazardous waste requires treatment before it is landfilled.
In addition, the number of landfills licensed to deal with hazardous waste in England and Wales will drop from 200 to 10 in mid July, which the agency warns will have a significant impact on the ability of business to dispose of their wastes.
This is likely to impact heavily on the food processing industry. According to the Environment Agency, the UK's food and drink sector produces between seven and eight million tonnes of waste per year, second only to the construction industry.
This could even have a knock-on effect on the packaging industry. There is a growing move away from the use of plastic and towards starch and other biodegradable materials. But with organic matter being taken out of landfill in the UK, both the food processing and packaging industries need to think carefully about waste management. As Martin Brocklehurst, head of waste management at the UK's Environment Agency suggests, these issues need to be linked up.
In order to achieve a co-ordinated waste management strategy, the agency has suggested that businesses carry out a five-point plan. Firstly, businesses should check whether their waste is hazardous by using Environment Agency guidelines.
Next, they should know where their hazardous waste is going. Mismanagement of waste, particularly hazardous waste, has the potential to harm the environment and human health, and businesses have a legal duty of care to ensure that their hazardous waste is passed to someone who has the authority to handle such as registered waste carriers or properly authorised waste management facilities.
Thirdly, manufacturers should explore their options to reduce the amount of hazardous waste they produce. The handling, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste is expensive, and the Environment Agency believes that hazardous waste minimisation including substituting hazardous materials for non-hazardous materials provides a real opportunity to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
Businesses should also budget for rising costs for the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste. With more stringent treatment of hazardous waste and fewer places to dispose of it, costs for hazardous waste disposal are set to rise. Overall, the estimated cost of managing hazardous wastes will rise from £150m to £500m per year.
And finally, manufacturers need to keep up to date - recent changes have resulted in more waste becoming hazardous. For some businesses this may mean that it will become a hazardous waste producer for the first time, as hazardous waste classification encompasses a broader range of equipment and materials than ever before.
"The handling, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste is an expensive process for most businesses, however, hazardous waste minimisation - including substituting hazardous materials for non-hazardous materials - provides a real opportunity to reduce costs and improve efficiencies," said Environment Agency hazardous waste policy manager Roy Watkinson.
"While some consequences of the legislation are unavoidable, such as increased costs, action is required by affected businesses to avoid more serious consequences, such as an increase in illegal waste management. The Environment Agency is working in partnership with Government to deliver some of these actions and work is already underway, but action is required at all levels, with business and industry playing a key role."