Wood recyclers are to lobby to change rules limiting the amount of time that waste wood destined for biomass burning can be stored, arguing that a three month limit is unlikely to prevent fires in the sector.
The Environment Agency last month launched a consultation into changes to standard permitting rules for the storage of materials such as waste wood and refuse derived fuel (RDF) (see letsrecycle.com story).
Currently permitting rules include a requirement that no combustible waste can be stored on a site for longer than three months, to reduce the risk of materials catching fire when they are stored outside. This is intended to be widened to include storage of material at open-air waste transfer stations and MRFs under the ‘Standard Rules Consultation No.12’.
There are also specific proposals for sites handling waste wood, including plans for future standard permits to prohibit activities from taking place within 200 metres of a workplace or residential dwelling. Waste wood sites operating under standard permits will also be required to handle no more than 5,000 tonnes of material per year on a single site.
The Wood Recyclers Association has welcomed the proposal for sites accepting more than 5,000 tonnes per year to have a bespoke permit, claiming that this will include the majority of operators within an ‘equal regulatory environment.’
But, the group claims that as demand for the waste wood is seasonal, with the majority of the material moved during winter months, it is difficult for some firms to move the material within the proposed three-month period.
And, WRA added that a three month time limit for such material does little to mitigate against arson or electrical or mechanical failures, which are the most common causes of fires within the waste wood sector.
As such, the group has said that it will seek to use the consultation to lobby in favour of a modification of the rule to allow operators to stockpile wood destined for energy during the summer months, provided adequate measures have been put in place to mitigate the possibility of fires.
Summarising its position on the proposals, the WRA has told members: “The Wood Recyclers Association welcomes the requirement for sites accepting more than 5,000 tonnes a year to have a bespoke permit in future because this will include the majority of operators within an equal regulatory environment.
“We also welcome the requirement for sites to have Fire Prevention Plans but are concerned that that the wording of the consultation suggests that it will be the Environment Agency and not the Fire and Rescue Service, who are the experts in this field, who will approve these plans.”
On the proximity proposals, which states that standard permits cannot be issued to sites whose activities are within 200 metres of a workplace or residential area, the group added: “We are concerned about the possible future impact of the introduction of a new rule requiring that activities shall not be carried out within 200 metres of a workplace or dwelling on existing operators who are currently working within 200 metres of a workplace or dwelling.”
Under the plans, sites operating under standard permits will be required to provide the Environment Agency with a Fire Prevention Plan where there is deemed to be a risk of fire.
The consultation on the revisions is open on the Environment Agency’s website until March 6.