Waste recovery plans and permits

How to apply for a waste recovery environmental permit to permanently deposit waste on land.

This guidance was withdrawn on

Waste recovery is when your main aim is replacing a non-waste material you would have used in your operation with a waste material that performs the same function. That waste then serves a useful purpose as you’re using fewer natural resources. For example, using crushed concrete and bricks to create a development platform for a building, in place of primary aggregates.

You should first contact the Environment Agency for a pre-application discussion on what information to include.

You must create a waste recovery plan and send it with your waste recovery permit application. Your plan must show that you’ll be carrying out a waste recovery activity.

If you cannot show that your proposed operation is waste recovery, you can apply for a waste disposal permit instead. During the application process, the Environment Agency will assess whether your proposed operation would be a recovery activity or a disposal activity.

You can contact the Environment Agency to discuss what permit application you need and what information to include.

Read section 1.4.5 of the European Commission’s waste guidance to understand the legal definition of waste disposal and recovery operations.

You can also find out more about waste recovery and disposal operations in Defra’s guidance on the Waste Framework Directive.

Waste recovery plan

You must send a waste recovery plan when you’re applying for either a standard or bespoke waste recovery permit. The Environment Agency will assess your plan to check your operation is a waste recovery activity.

The Environment Agency will charge £1,231 to assess your waste recovery plan. See the environmental permitting charges guidance for more information about charges to assess waste recovery plans.

What to include in your waste recovery plan

You must include certain information in your waste recovery plan unless the Environment Agency agrees that you have specific obligations to carry out the work.

Purpose of the work

You need to clearly describe the function of your proposed work and show that you’re carrying out the work to meet a genuine need.

Your evidence should set out:

  • how the work will be carried out and completed
  • why the work is needed and how the work will meet that need

Quantity of waste used

You must provide evidence to show that:

  • the waste material used will directly replace non-waste material
  • you’ll only use the amount of waste needed to carry out the function that would otherwise be provided by non waste
  • you have considered alternative proposals that could use a smaller amount of waste to achieve the same function

You must provide plans and cross sections showing the original and planned final ground levels.

Meeting quality standards

You must provide evidence to show how the work will be:

  • designed and constructed
  • fit for purpose

The finished scheme must not result in any environmental problems such as:

  • soil erosion
  • pollution
  • increased risk of flooding in the surrounding area

Waste recovery activities

Your plan must show that if you could not use a waste material you would do work to get the same outcome using non-waste materials. You must include evidence of this in your plan.

The Environment Agency will consider all relevant information including any evidence you provide. There are 3 main ways you can show evidence that you’re using waste in place of non waste.

Financial gain by using non-waste materials: evidence

You could provide evidence to show that if you carried out the work with non waste you would benefit from a net financial gain. Your waste recovery plan needs to include:

  • your expected income and any capital gain
  • all the costs of generating this income and any capital gain
  • all the costs of carrying out the work with non waste and any ongoing operating costs

This should show that it would be commercially worthwhile to use non waste. For example, it would show that using non waste produces a meaningful financial gain or is affordable and otherwise worthwhile.

‘Meaningful financial gain’ means the profit and payback period would make it worth your while to spend money on non waste. If you’ll only profit after several years of operating, then this may not be meaningful.

‘Otherwise worthwhile’ means there are indirect financial gains. For example, if you were to improve a flood defence system with non waste this investment may only pay for itself over a long period. But you’d do the improvements to avoid the potential disruption of a flood.

If you’re applying as a contractor, you need to provide the same evidence but show that the operation would be commercially worthwhile for the person employing you.

The Environment Agency will only consider the income and any capital gain received by the person who covers the cost of using non waste.

For example, if you’re going to level land to sell to a developer, you will not be able to include the profits the developer might make in your financial justification. However, if your work will increase the value of the land prior to sale, then you can include this gain as part of your evidence that the scheme is commercially worthwhile.

If the recovery activity is part of a bigger overall scheme, the Environment Agency will consider the whole scheme’s commercial viability.

If the recovery activity is a standalone operation, the Environment Agency will only take into account whether that standalone operation is commercially worthwhile.

Funding to use non waste: evidence

If you would have used non waste for your work, without any net financial benefit, you could provide:

  • evidence that you have secured the funding you need to cover the cost of the work using non waste
  • details of your expected costs in your waste recovery plan

Obligations to do work: evidence

You could provide evidence that you’re obliged to carry out the work.

This could be because a regulator has imposed a requirement on you. For example, you operate a quarry and are required by planning conditions to restore it according to an approved plan. This is not the same as planning permission, which allows you to do certain work without setting obligations.

If there’s an existing planning condition or obligation the Environment Agency will look at all the available information. This may include:

  • the extent to which the local planning authority was directly involved in the design of the scheme when planning was granted and the condition imposed
  • whether the local planning authority would be likely to agree anything significantly different

Specific obligations

Obligations may specify the work you have to carry out. If you have specific obligations to do the work proposed, your waste recovery plan must include:

  • evidence of the obligation
  • plans and cross sections that show your proposal matches the obligation on you
  • evidence that the waste is suitable for the intended purpose

General obligations

Some obligations require you to achieve certain results but do not specify exactly how you must do that.

If you’re generally obliged to do something your waste recovery plan must demonstrate why you would meet that obligation by carrying out the work proposed. It must also show how your proposed work meets your obligation.

For example, if you have a general obligation to reduce noise levels at a property, you do not necessarily need to build a noise bund. You could reduce noise by moving the noise source away from the property, or changing your operation. In those cases you do not need to deposit any material.

You’d then have to show the Environment Agency why you’d meet your general obligation by spending money on importing non-waste material, rather than an alternative.

Other evidence the waste is suitable

You must provide information about the chemical and physical properties of the waste in your waste recovery plan. This must show that the waste:

  • is suitable for the intended purpose
  • will not cause pollution

This evidence must be provided by an appropriately qualified person. This will be someone who has expert knowledge of the type of work you want to do and the environmental risks involved.

For example, if you’re building a bund or embankment, an appropriately qualified person is likely to be a geotechnical engineer. If you’re building a road, or development platform, it may be a civil engineer. If your scheme is small and straightforward, it could be an experienced practitioner rather than a graduate or chartered engineer.

You must show that the specification of the waste you intend to use is comparable to the non-waste material you’re replacing. In some cases, it may be appropriate not to use a like for like replacement. For example, if you plan to construct a noise bund instead of an acoustic wall.

Using waste to grow or feed plants

If you plan to use waste to grow plants and are applying for a bespoke permit you may need to submit an:

  • agricultural benefit statement
  • ecological improvement statement

Your statement must be prepared by a suitably qualified person. Read the land spreading guidance to find out the type of expertise or qualifications you need to prepare these statements.

Your statement should provide evidence that the waste you intend to spread on the land will provide:

  • an appropriate growing medium for the crop you want to grow
  • the nutrients the crop needs

You must also demonstrate that you’ll only use the amount of waste your crop needs.

Waste recovery permits

Read the guidance that applies to all waste permits to find out:

  • if you need a standard or bespoke permit
  • which application forms to use
  • whether you need to do a risk assessment and if so what type
  • other information you need to provide with your permit application

Standard rules permit

If you plan to recover 60,000 cubic metres or less of waste, you may be able to apply for a standard rules permit.

Bespoke waste recovery permit

If you’re planning to recover more than 60,000 cubic metres of waste, you must apply for a bespoke waste recovery permit.

Waste acceptance procedures

When you apply for a bespoke waste recovery permit, you must provide full details of the procedures you’ll follow when you accept waste onto your site.

The waste acceptance procedures guidance explains these procedures.

Engineering work

Your risk assessment may show that you need to do engineering work to protect the environment from your activity or to monitor the environment. Find out what engineering work you need to agree with the Environment Agency.

Gas monitoring

Unless your risk assessment shows this is not necessary, if you deposit waste more than 2m below the surrounding ground surface, you must monitor your waste for:

  • methane
  • carbon dioxide
  • oxygen

You should install at least 2 monitoring boreholes per hectare, with a minimum of 4 boreholes per site. The boreholes must extend to the full depth of the waste.

You must record the atmospheric pressure when you take gas readings, unless your risk assessment demonstrates that this is not needed.

If you detect methane in your waste monitoring boreholes, you must carry out a walkover gas survey.

How often you need to monitor will depend on your risk assessment and the morphology of the site.

If you’re not going to carry out monitoring, you must explain why in your permit application.

Aftercare monitoring

You may need to carry out aftercare monitoring to confirm the waste is physically and chemically stable.

If you carried out monitoring when you were depositing the waste, you must continue that monitoring for a short period after the site has closed. The length of time you do this for will depend on what you found during your operational phase monitoring.

You need the results of this monitoring to surrender your permit.

Find out what monitoring you must do in the controlling and monitoring emissions guidance.

Planning permission

You usually need planning permission to permanently deposit waste on land. You should contact your local planning authority for advice.

Changing your permit or plan

If the Environment Agency grants you a permit you must comply with the conditions in your permit and with your approved waste recovery plan.

If you want to change your operations, for example to accept a different type of waste, you must apply to vary your permit. You may also need to change your waste recovery plan.

You should discuss these changes with your local Environment Agency office before you go ahead.

If you operate under a standard rules permit you cannot vary your permit. You can ask to change your waste recovery plan, provided you continue to comply with all the standard rules.

If you want to change your waste recovery plan you must submit it for re-assessment, as some changes may mean your operation is no longer classed as waste recovery.

If the Environment Agency needs to re-assess your waste recovery plan, you will need to pay another assessment charge of £1,231. See the environmental permitting charges guidance for more information about charges to assess waste recovery plans.

Published 18 October 2016