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It really is rubbish

Posted by Richard Monday, June 28, 2004

The media is slowly beginning to wake up to the impending environmental disaster occasioned by the new EU regulations on the disposal of hazardous waste, which come into force on 16 July. In today’s Daily Telegraph, albeit in the business section on page 29, is a piece headed "Firms face leap in rubbish charges with new EU rules".

The story, outlined in the Booker column two Sundays ago (20 June), makes no better reading in the Telegraph, which records that only ten hazardous waste sites will be available after the deadline, as opposed to the 250 currently available, tripling the costs of disposal and depriving many businesses of easy access to tips..

But what is interesting is the craven comments of the Environmental Agency, charged with enforcing the new rules. Sir John Harman, its chairman, says the agency support the new rules, “because it would put pressure on hazardous waste producers to make improvements”.

This contrasts with the fact that the problem arises largely as a result of the prohibition on "co-disposal" – the practice where low level toxic material (such as soil contaminated with relatively low levels of heavy metals) can no longer be mixed in with domestic waste, so diluting the toxins containing pollution levels to within acceptable limits.

Furthermore, Harman fails to understand that the genesis of this legislation – and its antipathy towards landfill – arises from "Green" pressure in the Low Countries and Germany, where the high water tables in the Rhine basin and elsewhere make landfill an unsuitable method of disposal.

In the UK, however, with a wider range of geological structures, we have developed considerable expertise over a considerable period of time in the safe disposal of wastes on land, to the extent that the UK is a world leader in this arcane subject.

But, under the "one-size-fits-all" doctrine of the EU, we must abandon this expertise, unnecessarily triple the costs of disposal to industry (and therefore the consumer) and expose our green and pleasant land to the ravages of fly-tipping. And this, Sir John Harman thinks is a good thing.