Gove raises prospect of waste stockpiling in the event of ‘no deal’ Brexit

UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove has informed peers in the House of Lords that Defra is making preparations for the stockpiling of waste in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, including allowing waste sites to exceed their permitted levels on a ‘temporary case-by-case basis’.

Gove revealed the plans in a letter sent to Lord Teverson, Chair of the European Union Energy and Environment Sub-Committee in the House of Lords, on 15 January, which discussed the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) plans for Brexit.

Gove wrote that Environment Agency (EA) staff were ‘engaging with operators to identify where issues, including stockpiling, may arise’, adding that the EA is ‘ready to respond to requests from industry for additional storage of waste’.

The focus of the EA engagement is the South East of England, due to the fact that 15 per cent of the UK’s exports of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) – the largest single waste stream destined for export to EU countries, at 3.6 million tonnes a year – are sent from the port of Dover.

The UK waste industry has previously underlined the importance of frictionless trade of waste between the UK and the EU, an arrangement that would be under threat from a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The Environmental Services Association and the dutch Waste Management Association called it “essential” in April 2018, while the RDF Industry group called for urgent action to allow the export of RDF to continue unhindered.