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Blast furnace slag Re-Classified

Steel-making product Blast Furnace Slag will no longer will classified as a waste, a move that will cut red-tape and allow the construction industry easier access to more than 3 million tonnes of the material produced annually.

This decision applies to England and Wales and is effective immediately.

As part of the Waste Protocols Project run jointly by the Environment Agency and WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the change in classification for BFS emerged during the consultation process with the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) involving members of industry.

Martin Brocklehurst, Head of Environmental Protection External Programmes for the Environment Agency, said: “Considering all the information available about Air Cooled and Ground Granulated BFS produced in the UK we have been able to conclude that this material can be classified as a by-product and not a waste. This is good news for the industry, which contributed greatly to the technical report that helped inform this decision, and has believed for some time that BFS is a by-product not a waste.”

The BREW-funded Waste Protocols Project was set up to remove uncertainty over the point at which some 'waste' is fully recovered and can be classified as a non-waste product. As a result some materials have continued to be controlled under waste legislation beyond the point when waste controls are needed. In some cases these materials have been unnecessarily disposed of to landfill.

“Until guidance emerged from the EU Commission that clarified the distinction between 'by-products' and 'wastes', BFS had been regarded by the Environment Agency as a waste and the TAG consultation was working towards a Quality Protocol for the material,” Mr Brocklehurst said.

However, with this clarification from the EU through consultation with industry, the Environment Agency was able to review the legal classification of BFS from waste to by-product.

Under EU regulations, for a material to be classified as a by-product rather than a waste, it must be shown:

1. The material is certain to be used;

2. No further processing is required for the use; and

3. The material is used as an integral part of the continuing production process.

WRAP's Dr Richard Swannell, Joint Project Executive for the Waste Protocols Project, said: “BFS is a first rate quality resource for the production of aggregates for a range of high value applications, reducing the demand for primary aggregates. As Ground Granulated BFS it has even greater benefits as a cement replacement, improving concrete quality and reducing concrete's carbon footprint. Demand for BFS is high; in the UK it currently outstrips supply.

“This decision classifying BFS as a non-waste by-product provides much needed clarity over the material's standing within waste regulations and removes barriers to its use.''

Martin Brocklehurst, continued: “This work, and the Waste Protocols Project as a whole, demonstrates the importance and benefits of the Environment Agency, WRAP, trade bodies and industry working in collaboration to develop solutions that ease regulation and create businesses opportunities.”

Any users of BFS wanting additional information should contact the Environment Agency on 08708 506 506.

Media enquiries: 020 7863 8710, or outside normal office hours, please contact the National Duty Press Officer on 07798 882 092

Press Officer, WRAP, Office: 01295 819695 / 01295 819677

UK production of BFS originates today from the three integrated steel-making facilities in the UK. These are plants owned by Corus UK Ltd at Teesside, Scunthorpe and Port Talbot (The Corus Group was recently acquired by the Tata Group). Together these plants typically produce around three million tonnes of BFS annually.

Approximately 75 per cent of BFS production in the UK is converted into Ground Granulated BFS (GGBFS) and the remainder into air-cooled BFS (ACBFS). Virtually all GGBFS produced is for sale to the UK concrete market, whereas ACBFS is crushed and screened for UK aggregate sales.

Key markets include:

· Aggregates for use in trafficked and non-trafficked areas including unbound and bound mixtures, in particular asphalt;

· Aggregates for fill beneath ground-bearing slabs under houses (approved for use by the National House Building Council);

Biological filter media at water sewage treatment works;
· Glass wool (insulation material).

About the Waste Protocols Project

The Waste Protocols Project is set to launch 12-week consultations for five Quality Protocols in the next two months. They are:

· The production of biodiesel from waste vegetable oil,

· Tyre-derived rubber materials

· Non-packaging plastics,

· Flat glass,

· Pulverised fuel ash.

In keeping with the Environment Agency's modern regulation programme, the Waste Protocols Project is currently considering the following waste streams:

· Boiler ash from the disposal of paper sludge through combustion

· Uncontaminated topsoil

· Steel slag

· Incinerator bottom ash

· Waste plasterboard

· Outputs from anaerobic digestate


WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) is a major UK programme established to promote resource efficiency. Its particular focus is on creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products and removing the barriers to waste minimisation, re-use and recycling.

A not-for-profit company, WRAP is backed by substantial Government funding from Defra and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (www.wrap.org.uk).

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