Quarry restoration under threat
THE long-term ability of the quarrying industry to fulfil its obligations and commitments to quarry restoration is being increasingly threatened by waves of uncoordinated regulations that are inhibiting the use of inert waste as fill.
According to operators, the combined effects of the Landfill Directive, the Waste Framework Directive and new waste-licensing regulations mean that quarries that have historically relied on imported inert construction and demolition wastes are now facing major barriers in returning land for beneficial after uses.
Operators say they also fear that current high levels of recovery of waste for use as recycled aggregates will be inhibited as a result of confusing new regulations that are currently at odds with each other and place major additional burdens on sites handling such materials.
Of particular concern is the fact that the Landfill Regulations (2002) apply costly Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) requirements to inert landfills, even when those sites deal with materials that pose no pollution risk.
‘While we enthusiastically support the trend towards recycled aggregates, our members have, as a result, lost significant volumes of inert material for restoration,’ said Quarry Products Association planning executive Nienke Veldkamp.
‘Our members do not wish to use those inert materials that can be recycled for restoration purposes; however, they can ill afford to lose what cannot otherwise be recycled because of overly restrictive regulations.’
‘A steady and adequate supply of aggregates is vital to the delivery of many governmental initiatives, particularly the Sustainable Communities Plan spearheaded by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott,’ added QPA chief executive, Simon van der Byl.
‘Although it is QPA policy that secondary and recycled aggregates should form the first element of supply, these materials cannot meet the total demand both in quality and, more significantly, in sufficient quantity. As such, the continued extraction of primary aggregates is essential to meet the needs of society currently and in the future. The use of inert waste for the restoration of mineral workings is a vital part of the sustainable aggregates supply chain and needs to be recognized as such, yet it is being increasingly threatened by the cumulative effects of overly restrictive regulations and inappropriate guidance.’
Given their shallow nature and the fact that many lie below the water table, it is for the restoration of sand and gravel sites – for which the industry has a world-class record – that most imported inert waste is needed.
The QPA is seeking discussions on the problem with DEFRA and the Environment Agency, who between them are faced with interpreting the latest raft of European regulations. In its position statement the QPA has outlined five key recommendations:
Infilling and restoration of mineral workings should be regarded as a re-use or recovery of waste in accordance with European legislation.
A specific exemption from waste-management licensing should be applied to the use of inert waste for restoration of active quarry workings.
Landfill regulations should be amended to remove inert wastes from the IPPC regime.
Guidance to identify products and residues generated by crushing and screening of construction wastes as inert.
Guidance to ensure that the regulatory burden does not exceed the intentions of the legislation concerned.