Waste and recycling firms are being urged to check whether they are meeting their legal duties under RPS 291 – including sharing test results with the WRA – as active compliance checks by the Environment Agency kick in.

Under Regulatory Position Statement 291, introduced in November 2023, operators who handle certain kinds of potentially hazardous ‘amber’ waste wood* from demolition can move and process it as non-hazardous – provided they meet certain conditions.

Crucially, material must be tested at least once a quarter and the results must be shared with the WRA, who will issue a WRA Submission Report. Only with a valid Submission Report can companies achieve compliance.

The call from the WRA and Environment Agency (EA) comes as the EA is starting to ask operators to see WRA Submissions Reports as evidence that they or their supply chain are participating in testing and data sharing.

Howard Leberman, Senior Advisor at the Environment Agency, said: “In order to be compliant with RPS 291, operators who take amber items of waste wood must check that it is being tested at least once per quarter and results are shared with the WRA.

“We’re now past the first quarter so are actively looking for WRA Submission Reports to confirm participation.”

Sharing results

It is critical that test results are shared with the WRA so it can build up an evidence base which it is hoped will demonstrate that more items are non-hazardous. This means they would no longer have to be subject to hazardous waste controls and high costs when the RPS is removed in October 2024.

Vicki Hughes, Technical Lead on the WRA Board, said: “We are now seeing the Environment Agency asking sites to see their WRA Submission Reports to demonstrate compliance. These Submission Reports can only be obtained by sharing test results with the WRA and sadly, some sites are paying for testing but not sharing their data so are seen as non-compliant.

“Under the RPS, it is the producer of the waste – whoever generated or first handled the waste – who is responsible for testing the material.

Vicki Hughes, Technical Lead on the WRA Board

“However, in practice this means that many further up the supply chain who process waste wood from multiple sources will also have to test as part of their acceptance process and gain a WRA Submission Report unless they can demonstrate that all the material they handle is already compliant.”

“All test results are anonymous and operators only need to identify and test one of the ten potentially hazardous items each quarter to comply.

“The amber items are not that easy to find, so if you find one of these items, it is advisable to take a sample for testing straight away to ensure compliance for that quarter. It is important to note that once the sample has been taken and sent to a lab for WRA 02 testing, the tested item does not need to be stored separately while awaiting the results and can be moved immediately as non-hazardous.”

Compliance

Vicki continued: “RPS 291 makes it much less onerous for operators to demonstrate compliance than previously. After the removal of RPS 250 in September 2023, operators were required to test all potentially hazardous material, creating a lot of cost and confusion. Now operators are only required to test one item per quarter, although we would encourage anyone with multiple items to test as many as possible to allow us to build up data quickly.

“However, RPS 291 is only temporary so it is critical that we gather as many test results as possible before it expires in October to demonstrate that more items are non-hazardous. This will cut red tape and ensure as much waste wood as possible is recycled and save the industry significant sums.”

“Please note we are looking for tests on material with non-visible treatments, not obviously treated material which we know to be hazardous or painted items. We also only need one wood type sample per site, rather than multiple samples of the same item.”

Toolkit

Operators can use the WRA Waste Wood Classification Toolkit for a step-by-step guide to how to identify amber material, take samples and send them off for testing and also find a list of approved WRA member laboratories.

Material should be tested according to the WRA02 testing suite but this does not mean the results will automatically be shared with the WRA, so operators need to ask their laboratories to do this. There is no need to pay extra to determine whether the material is hazardous or not, unless you need this information for another purpose, as all results are analysed in-house by the WRA.

Vicki added: “We are now seeing more amber material being tested which is really encouraging as the EA has asked us for a monthly update to ensure we meet the timelines set. Therefore, if you are still unsure how to gain compliance then please don’t hesitate to consult the WRA’s Waste Wood Classification Toolkit or get in touch with us directly.”

 

*Amber items of waste wood are from buildings built between 1950 and 2006 and are:

  • Roof timbers
  • Tiling and cladding battens
  • Timber frames and joists

Amber items of waste wood are also from buildings built between 1950 and 1995 and are:

  • barge boards, fascias and soffits
  • external timber cladding
  • external doors
  • external windows
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