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Hazardous Waste

Volume 168: debated on Wednesday 28 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) of 8 December 1989, Official Report, column 423, if he will publish in the Official Report the information contained in his letter of reply of 5 December 1989.

My letter of 5 December 1989 to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) contained the following information in reply to questions he had tabled on aspects of hazardous waste management.I said that there were four incinerators licensed to deal commercially with special wastes in Britain. I had no detailed information on the number of large chemical incinerators in the European Community or elsewhere which treated special wastes. I was unable to provide the information the hon. Member sought on the design of the furnace doors of the incinerators.Regarding incineration at sea, the disposal of wastes was licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. My Department did not keep records of the amount of special wastes incinerated in the North sea or in other European waters.This Department had held information on the import of wastes for incineration only since October 1988 when the relevant provisions of the Transfrontier Shipment of Hazardous Waste Regulations came into force. Since then some 8,700 tonnes of imported special waste had been dealt with at the four commercially available incinerators.Information on the amount of waste dealt with at the incinerator operated by ReChem International Ltd. at Ponteg, Pontypool was not held by this Department but by the local waste disposal authority, Torfaen borough council. The results of the PCB sampling in soils and herbage around the plant undertaken by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution were (figures in micrograms per kilogram):

  • PCBs in Herbage:
    • Range 3·0–19·7
    • Mean 8·4
    • Median 6·6
  • PCBs in Soil:
    • Range 9·0–19·0
    • Mean 13·5
    • Median 14·8

The latest figures (August 1989) indicated levels of PCB in the flue gas of the incinerator to be considerably less than 0·01 mg/cum. The (then) latest figures for Dioxin and Furans (in nanograms per cubic metre) were:


2, 3, 7, 8—tetrachlorodibenzofuran0·050
Tetrachlorodibenzofurans (total)0·120
2, 3, 7, 8—tetrachlorodibenzodioxin<0·025
Tetrachlorodibenzodioxins (total)<0·025
Pentachlorodibenzofurans (total)<0·025
Pentachlorodibenzodioxins (total)<0·025
Hexachlorodibenzofurans (total)<0·025
Hexachlorodibenzodioxins (total)<0·025
Heptachlorodibenzofurans (total)<0·050
Heptachlorodibenzodioxins (total)0·050

The emission figures for both PCBs and dioxins/furans compared very favourably with those published for similar incinerators in Europe.

No equipment was available to give instantaneous readings of PCB or dioxin in flue gas. However, continuous sampling was undertaken and samples of flue gas were analysed on a routine basis for PCB and on a more random basis for dioxin.

A number of possible processes were under investigation as alternative methods of incineration of PCBs. The most promising appeared to be those involving exchange of the chlorine atom or microbiological systems. Neither would be likely to prove effective for high concentrations of PCBs, for which high-temperature incineration was likely to remain the only satisfactory form of disposal.

From the start of commercial production of PCBs in 1929 to 1980 some 1,055,000 tonnes of PCBs had been produced worldwide, of which 66,800 tonnes were produced in the United Kingdom by Monsanto, Newport. Other major producing countries were the United States of America (648,000 tonnes), Japan (60,000 tonnes), Spain (25,000 tonnes) and (Italy (24,000 tonnes). During 1980–84, only France, West Germany, Italy and Spain within the Community continued to manufacture PCBs and after 1984 production continued only in France and Spain. This Department did not hold figures for PCB production after 1980.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen asked about the amount of special wastes which had been subjected to the Leigh environmental sealosafe solidification process. This Department does not hold information on that which is a matter for the waste disposal authority, Walsall metropolitan borough council. Finally, the hon. Member asked about the import of flyash through Swansea docks. That, again, is a matter for the local waste disposal authority, Swansea district council.