Waste - ‘recovery’ or ‘disposal’ ?

Posted: 16th April 2013

In a decision which clarifies the dividing line between ‘disposal’ and ‘recovery’ of waste, the High Court has opened the way for development of a substantial waste treatment plant in Derbyshire. The High Court ruled that, in granting planning permission for the scheme, a government inspector had placed the proposals in the correct category of the so-called ‘waste hierarchy’ and had rightly focused on the best overall environmental outcome, the High Court ruled. Landfill

The proposed plant would be used to treat large quantities of domestic ‘black bag’ waste with the objective of extracting recyclable content and producing a gas which would then be used to incinerate any remaining waste and to produce sufficient electricity to power 14,000 homes. Any residual heat would be exported to local businesses in the form of steam or hot water.

Campaigners, including members of Derby Friends of the Earth, challenged the inspector’s decision on the basis that the proposed plant should be viewed as a waste disposal facility which was ‘little better than the traditional practice of disposal of waste to landfill sites’. It was submitted that the inspector had misapplied or misconstrued policy and that the plant should have been placed towards the bottom end of the waste hierarchy.

In upholding the inspector’s decision, the High Court ruled that he had correctly interpreted the definitions of ‘recovery’ and ‘disposal’ within EU directive 2008/98/EC (The Waste Framework Directive). In reaching his decision, the inspector had rightly taken a practical approach to the application of the waste hierarchy in order to encourage the option that delivered the best overall environmental outcome.