Pre-treatment of Waste

A change to the EU Landfill Directive means that nearly all inert or non-hazardous wastes will soon have to be pre-treated before disposal of to landfill. This means that all inert or non-hazardous landfills can no longer accept untreated waste (Website 2). The requirement to treat waste is part of the main aim of the Landfill Directive to try and prevent or reduce as far as possible the negative effects on the environment (Website 3), applied across the EU. This change aims to help increase waste recycling and recovery and to help reduce potentially polluting emissions from landfills (Website 1). This change will apply in England, Northern Ireland and Wales from 30 October 2007, in Scotland waste must be treated as a requirement of the PPC permit (Website 6).

What pre-treatment means………

For the waste to be seen as pre-treated it must comply with the definition of treatment, this involves a three point test in which the proposed treatment option must be accessed by (Website 5):

Pre-treatment of Waste

1)The waste must be treated by a physical, thermal, chemical or biological process which includes sorting.

2) The process must change the characteristics of the waste, and

3) It must do so in order to

(a) Reduce the wastes volume; or

(b) Reduce its hazardous nature; or

(c) Facilitate its handling; or

(d) Enhance its recovery.

This means that a proportion of each waste stream must be separated out for recycling. The treatment of the waste can be a very simple process for example if glass is collected separately at the kerbside and is then sent for recycling then the waste will fit the pre-treated requirements (Website 4). Compaction would not be seen as a treatment method this is because it does not change the characteristics of the waste, therefore the potential for impact on health or the environment is the same as un-compacted waste (Website 5).

The process of pre-treatment can also be much more complicated where technologies such as, Mechanical Biological Treatment, Thermal Treatment and Anaerobic Digestion are used (Website 2). Many companies and local authorities already operate some form of treatment/ sorting process before landfill, in this instance you will not have to provide any form of additional treatment to apply with the regulations (Website 5).

Waste treatment options exist for a large amount of wastes; therefore there are only two exceptions where non hazardous waste can be sent to landfill with out being pre-treated. The two exceptions are (Website 1):

  1. For inert wastes, if treatment is not technically possible;
  2. For other wastes, if that treatment would not reduce the quantity or the hazards that it poses to human health or the environment.
  3. Responsibility of …..

    1) Waste producers must either treat their own waste and provide information about the treatment method used for subsequent holders or ensure that the waste will be treated by a subsequent holder before it is landfilled. The waste producers are not obliged to treat their waste themselves and they can use a waste contractor (Website 5).

    It is suggested by NetRegs (Website 6) who provide free environmental guidance for small businesses in the UK, that it is a good idea to produce written declaration whether you treat the waste yourself or a waste management company does this for you. The declaration should state (Website 6):

    Who has treated the waste.....

    The type of treatment that has occurred (if any)

    The amount of waste that has been sorted out for recovery or alternative treatment (if relevant).

    2) Landfill Operators must comply with the regulations (Website 5):

    - Ensure that waste is treated prior to landfill

    - If they do not think that the waste has been treated the landfill operator has the duty to reject the waste.

    Unless they are treating the waste themselves for the producer they will have to rely on information from others to allow them to be confident that the waste has been treated.

    Useful contacts…….

    In England and Wales a good way to find recycling facilities in your area is to use the Waste Recycling Directory for Business (Website 6). To view the Waste Recycling Directory for Business go to

    To help find a nearest recycling and reuse services in Scotland the Waste Aware Business Recycling Directory is useful (Website 6). To view the Waste Aware Business Recycling Directory got to


    Website 1: Environment Agency (2007), your waste - your responsibility fact sheet for landfill operators, (Accessed 29/08/2007)

    Website 2; Environment Agency, briefing note, Treatment of non hazardous waste for landfill, (Accessed 30/08/2007)

    Website 3: Defra (2005), Strategy & Legislation: Legislation/Directives - EU Landfill Directive, (Accessed 29/08/2007)

    Website 4: Biffa, Important New Legislation, (Accessed 12/09/2007)

    Website 5: Environment Agency, Treatment of non-hazardous wastes for landfill (Accessed 14/09/2007)

    Website 6: NetRegs Landfill site operators - what do you need to do about treating waste?