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Metals: Recycling

Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of (a) the number of metal recycling sites affected by proposals to remove their exemptions from full environmental permitting, (b) the number of such sites which will (i) incur additional costs and (ii) risk closure under the proposals and (c) the cost to each site of obtaining the necessary planning approvals for their operations under the proposals. (257395)

In England and Wales there are currently 1,893 sites operating under the existing exemption from environmental permitting which applies to the recovery of scrap metal or the dismantling of motor vehicles.

Under the proposed amendments to the exemptions from environmental permitting which the Department put out for consultation last year, and using best available information, it is estimated that about one third of scrap metal sites which are currently exempt might need to apply for an environmental permit. No decisions have yet been taken on the outcome of the consultation process, and until the exemption thresholds are finalised, it is not possible to determine precisely how many scrap metal sites would require an environmental permit and associated planning approval in the future. Any additional costs incurred by such sites would vary, depending on the particular circumstances of each site.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Environment Agency takes to inspect businesses engaged in scrap metal (a) recovery and (b) treatment for compliance with the requirements of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007; what steps it takes to prosecute businesses which do not comply with the regulations; and what its budget for such enforcement activity for 2008-09 is. (257396)

The Environment Agency’s inspection regime for those scrap metal sites which require an environmental permit is determined by an Operator Pollution Risk Appraisal (OPRA), which assesses the environmental risks and hazards posed by and associated with an activity and how well they are being managed. Those scrap metal sites which qualify for an exemption from the need for an environmental permit are inspected on an annual basis.

Between April and December 2008, 97 scrap metal and end of life vehicles sites were subject to intervention by the Environment Agency including enforcement. This included shutting 78 sites down and bringing 19 sites into compliance. Sites which represent the highest environmental risk are dealt with as a matter of priority. During 2008, the Environment Agency carried out 14 prosecutions against operators treating, keeping, or storing waste illegally or breaching permit conditions involving metals and end of life vehicles only.

The Environment Agency works in partnership with the major trade associations, police forces, Home Office, DVLA, DEFRA and BERR in tackling waste crime. The agency spends about £15 million a year tackling illegal waste activity, which includes fly tipping and illegal wastes sites. It is not possible to say how much of this spend relates to scrap metal sites.