What are permitted landfills?
Permitted landfills in Northern Ireland are fully engineered and managed facilities for the disposal of solid waste. Landfills are located, designed, operated and monitored to ensure compliance with the Landfill Regulations. They are designed to protect the environment from contaminants that may be present in the waste stream.
Article 2(g) of the Landfill Directive defines a landfill as “a waste disposal site for the deposit of the waste onto or into land”. The basic components of a landfill are:
- A bottom liner system to prevent the waste being in direct connectivity with the surrounding soil and groundwater;
- Cells where compressed waste is deposited;
- Storm water drainage system;
- Leachate collection system;
- Gas collection system;
- Permanent cover or cap that seals the top of the landfill.
The regulatory permitting process for landfill sites
The Landfill Regulations provide for a pollution control regime for landfills for the purpose of implementing Council Directive 99/31 on the landfill of waste (“the Landfill Directive”) in Northern Ireland.
The permitting process for landfill sites requires the operator to secure:
- Planning Permission from the local planning authority prior to a Landfill Permit being issued; and
- A Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
PPC Permits are issued under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 (the PPC Regulations). The PPC Regulations are the legislative mechanism for implementing the Landfill Regulations in Northern Ireland at operational landfills. A rigorous application process will take into account a number of environmental risk assessments that provides for a public and statutory consultation process. The enforcing authority for Part A specified waste management installations in Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), an executive agency within the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
Article 4 of the Landfill Directive requires every landfill to be classified as being suitable for the disposal of hazardous, non-hazardous or inert waste. Classification in this way aims to ensure that engineering, operational and waste acceptance standards are appropriate for the type of waste to be landfilled.
There is only one privately owned hazardous waste landfill in Northern Ireland. The remainder are inert landfills or non-hazardous landfills in which the latter can accept domestic and commercial wastes such as your black bin waste.
Non-hazardous landfills accepting domestic and commercial waste have the potential to cause nuisance due to the nature of waste accepted. The PPC Permit contains conditions in relation to nuisance and environmental protection and ensures that the landfill Operator has plans in place (e.g. Odour Management Plans) to manage and mitigate potential impacts.
Non-hazardous landfills are designed on the principal of fully engineered containment. Landfill gas is collected and managed by active extraction of the gas to a gas utilisation plant with leachate collected and treated and/or taken off site for treatment.
In addition to compliance with the Landfills Regulations, the Operator shall use all measures reasonably practicable to prevent, or where that is not practicable, reduce emissions from the installation.
When disposal operations cease, the landfill will be covered and sealed with an engineered capping layer. A Landfill Closure Permit will be issued at this stage. With no active open areas and the site effectively sealed for gas collection, any nuisance is extremely unlikely. The site will be managed and the Closure Permit will remain in place until it poses no further significant risk to the environment.
Landfills which could not meet the requirements of the Landfill Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (the Landfill Regulations) were closed to the acceptance of waste in March 2007. Many of these sites continue to be regulated under closure licences by NIEA. Older landfills which closed before July 2001 do not fall within the closure requirements of the Landfill Regulations and are not regulated by the NIEA.
What is a landfill operator responsible for?
The landfill operator is responsible for:
- the control and daily operation of the landfill;
- maintaining compliance with Permit conditions;
- operating in accordance with their management plans;
- environmental monitoring (groundwater, surface water, landfill gas);
- ensuring emissions are within set permit limits;
- notification to NIEA of significant events or breakdowns;
- staff training and technical competence;
- environmental reporting to NIEA (quarterly and annual);
- investigation of complaints and maintaining records;
- Construction Quality Assurance for landfill engineering and infrastructure;
- Maintaining Financial Provisions for the landfill.
How does the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) regulate landfills?
NIEA regulates landfill sites through an environmental permit which aims to ensure that the landfill is operated by best practice with minimal impact on the environment by:
- Issue the permit and review how the operator will operate the site and ensure it is operated in accordance with best available techniques and industry standards;
- Implements guidance and provides advice and guidance to operators;
- Assesses the operator’s monitoring data;
- Inspects the site regularly to ensure it is operating within the conditions of its permit;
- Advises the operator on any necessary improvements to ensure continued compliance with the permit;
- Has a range of regulatory powers to take appropriate enforcement actions; and
- Responds to complaints from members of the public by investigating the issues.
We use Environment Agency Guidance as our primary source of landfill sector technical guidance. This can be viewed at:
Odours from Landfills
Landfill sites that accept domestic and commercial wastes including your black bin waste while they will have management measures in place, may periodically produce odour due to two main processes which are:
1. As waste is deposited and disposed at the landfill it can produce an odour similar to a household dustbin; and
2. Gases produced by degrading wastes produce an odour.
The landfill site has a duty to ensure they are using all measures reasonably practicable to minimise these odours. NIEA regulates its landfill sites to ensure they are in fact using all the measures that they should be.
The odour most people experience from landfills is a gas odour. In order to minimise the odour of landfill gas, the operator must extract as much gas as possible and burn this gas in gas engines to produce electricity.
To do this the landfill operator will drill gas extraction wells approximately every six months to capture gas from newly deposited waste. This is accepted industry guidance as historically it has taken waste around six months to degrade and produce gas.
NIEA have noted in recent times that waste is now producing gas at a much faster rate than was previously the case and in advance of scheduled installations of new gas wells. NIEA will work with landfill operators to find an interim solution when this occurs.
Where there are non-compliance issues at a site, NIEA will direct the operator to resolve these using all measures reasonably practicable and ensure that operations get into, and continue in, compliance with permit conditions. NIEA will take enforcement action when it is necessary to do so in line with its enforcement policy.
However, it must be advised that there will always be periodic odours from a working landfill, although these should not be in any way sustained.
What role has the local Council?
Local Councils have no direct role in the regulation of operation landfills; however, if the landfill is causing an odour or other nuisance in the local area, then this may be investigated by the local council under its statutory responsibilities in the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2011.
How do I notify NIEA about odours?
To report an incident, you can call 028 9056 9747 or email: NIEAwastecomplaint@daera-ni.gov.uk
You can also contact the relevant operator directly.
What information do I need to report?
When you contact NIEA or the operator, it would be helpful if you can provide the following information:
- The time you smelt the odour and whether it is intermittent;
- Where you smelt the odour
- What it smells like
The following is a list of landfills which can accept domestic and commercial wastes, including black bin wastes:
|Permit No.||Operator & Location||Contact details||View PPC Permit|
|P0044/04A||Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Drummee Landfill Site Enniskillen
|0300 303 1777
|P0087/05A||River Ridge Recycling Ltd
Craigmore Landfill Garvagh
|P0090/05A||Biffa Waste Services Ltd
Cottonmount Landfill, Newtownabbey
|P0107/05A3||Alpha Resource Management Ltd
Mullaghglass Landfill Site,
|P0148/06A4||Causeway Coast & Glens District Council
|P0336/09A||Mid Ulster District Council
Ballymacombs Landfill Site,
|0300 0132 132
View all waste PPC permits Here.
Note: the “Use of Site” column describes the type of site and also landfill classification where appropriate.
More information on Landfills can be found Here.