Over the past two years those working within the waste and recycling sector cannot fail to have noticed the furore that has occurred around the Environment Agency’s Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) guidance.
It arose on the back of a perceived increase in waste fires over the past two to three years, which prompted the Environment Agency to look more closely at how waste and recycling sites are permitted and what fire prevention and detection measures are in place to try to reduce the number of fires.
The resulting guidance, known as FPP2, was introduced in March 2015 on the back of previous guidance which the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) and other trade bodies already felt was unworkable for many operators.
Since its introduction, the WRA has taken the lead on behalf of a number of trade associations - including UROC, ORG (the Association for Organics Recycling) and the Tyre Recyclers Association - to lobby against some aspects of the guidance which were felt to be simply unworkable.
However, we are hopeful there is light at the end of the tunnel. Perseverance and determination have finally led to an open dialogue with the EA which we hope will lead to a better understanding on both sides and ultimately flexibility within the current guidance (FPP 3) to allow bonafide operators to continue with their business.
The WRA is now working with the Environment Agency to develop an FPP Waste Wood Template, which will define acceptable ‘alternative measures’ to give wood recyclers the flexibility required to approve non-standard Fire Prevention Plans. As part of this work the WRA will create a model which will give guidance for different fraction sizes of wood.
The fact that the industry trade bodies have played such a huge role in bringing this issue to light is one they should be proud of. It shows a maturity and understanding among operators that may not have been possible a few years ago. It also shows that the majority of the operators in the sector are willing to work to a set of benchmarks in order to raise standards within the industry, as long as they are fair, reasonable and practicable.
As the sector moves forward we will continue to face increased regulation, as will other areas within industry. We need to be prepared for this and willing and able to embrace it.
With that in mind from a wood perspective, the WRA is going to begin work on a Code of Practice for waste wood recyclers and reprocessors. The Code will include minimal standards that members will have to adhere to and will be aimed at raising overall standards across the waste wood sector to ensure it is sustainable for the future.
Overall we are optimistic about the future for waste wood recycling in the UK, especially given its’ significant contribution to UK energy security and, although there are still challenges to face in the times ahead, we are confident there will be many exciting opportunities for waste wood operators going forward.
Chairman, Wood Recyclers Association