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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 June, 2004, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
UK 'facing toxic waste threat'
Landfill site
New rules will bar hazardous waste from most of Britain's landfill sites
Britain is set to face an explosion in the illegal dumping of hazardous waste, environmental watchdogs fear.

An EU ban comes into effect on 16 July banning waste such as asbestos, acids and pesticides from landfill sites.

And the Environment Agency warns this will lead to only 10 to 15 rubbish dumps in Britain being able to take such waste, out of the current 240.

A spokesman told BBC News: "This is a huge problem. It will offer a boom for crooks who fly-tip dangerous waste."

'Illegal activities'

Hazardous waste, which includes industrial sludge and other dangerous chemicals, is currently disposed of in landfill sites along with non-hazardous materials like household rubbish.

Many businesses... could end up in the dock if their waste is subsequently flytipped by unscrupulous criminals
Barbara Young
Environment Agency
But the new regulations will mean it has to be disposed of separately, with the aim of encouraging businesses to recycle as much as possible.

The agency says this squeeze on capacity will leave much of Britain with a build-up of hazardous waste with nowhere to go, and Scotland, Wales and London will have no sites that accept such material.

The Environment Agency, which covers England and Wales, is now urging businesses to be vigilant over whom they hand their wastes to for disposal.

Chief executive Barbara Young said: "The Environment Agency will not tolerate illegal waste activities as new hazardous waste rules come into force.

'Unscrupulous criminals'

"Many businesses are unaware they have a legal duty of care to ensure that they pass their waste on to a legitimate waste carrier, and could end up in the dock themselves if their waste is subsequently flytipped by unscrupulous criminals."

Following the EU's Landfill Directive, the government will launch new regulations for the UK next month.

But full rules on standards required for treating and disposing of hazardous waste in Britain will not be available until next year.

Many firms blame the government for acting too slowly, the agency says, and insist they cannot spend cash on new machinery and technology in case they do not meet the more comprehensive standards being released in 2005.

EA spokeswoman Susanne Baker told BBC News Online: "We face a big problem, but although this tightening of rules on waste is going to be painful, if it makes us limit our hazardous waste production it will be worthwhile."

She continued: "It has been clear for a long time that the UK's reliance on cheap landfilling of waste has to end.

"Alternative methods of treating and disposing of hazardous wastes already exist and are in use in many European states."

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