EQual - Ensuring quality of waste-derived products to achieve resource efficiency

LIFE10 ENV/UK/000176

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Contact details:

Contact person: Diana BRADFORD
Email: diana.bradford@environment-agency.gov.uk

Project description:


A Quality Protocol (QP) sets out how to recover waste and turn it into a useable product. It defines the point at which waste ceases to be waste and when it can be used again as a regular product (without the need for waste management controls). The UK Environment Agency’s Waste Protocols Project (WPP) established nine end-of-waste QPs, with another nine under development. Waste types already covered by protocols include biodegradable waste compost, blast furnace slag, wood waste, and non-packaging plastics. These are recycled to produce products for use in sectors like agriculture, construction, energy and manufacturing. By 2020, the benefits to England and Wales from the WWP are estimated at around £1 billion, in business savings and increased sales of waste-derived products. Simultaneously, it should divert 17 million tonnes of waste from landfill, preserve 14 million tonnes of raw materials and avert 2.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (figures from financial impact assessments prepared by the WPP). However, if more was done to help industry apply waste protocol methods themselves, it is estimated that the impact could be much greater.


The EQual LIFE project planned to build on the WWP methodology and increase the range and volume of materials that are recycled in Europe. The aim was to develop and promote protocols to increase industry’s ability to produce, and raise consumer confidence in the use of, quality waste-derived products. EQual will therefore help deliver the EU’s Waste Thematic Strategy.


The EQual project worked to reduce the uncertainty for businesses and regulators surrounding waste management, by providing support through web tools and greater knowledge of specific waste streams. The revised European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) established a legal framework for improved waste management. It promotes waste prevention, re-use, and recycling; and also provides for certain waste to be taken out of waste regulation for use in new products, providing it meets certain criteria to safeguard human health and the environment. This “end of waste” is described in Article 6 of the Directive. In the UK, Quality Protocols (QPs) are one of the key guidance mechanisms. These set out process frameworks for commonly-used, high-volume materials, and by following these, a business can demonstrate whether they have met the end of waste test or not. However, although businesses have much to gain by achieving end of waste and coming out of waste regulation, there have been many disputes as to whether something is a waste or not. The project aimed to clarify this situation for the business community. The project’s three key deliverables were: a Quality Protocol checker web tool for the UK’s Quality Protocols; a web tool providing a step-by-step approach to enable businesses to determine whether end of waste has been achieved or not (Is It Waste? tool); and field trials to assess the impact of four waste types on the environment.

The project tools will remain available online (the project closed in May 2015), namely, the Quality Protocol Checker (www.qpchecker.info) and the 'Is It Waste?' tool (www.isitwaste.org). The QP Checker tool will aid in waste management decision-making and enable users to check compliance with the Waste Framework Directive in relation to a number of factors, including markets, customers and environmental risk. This will make it much easier for businesses to assess their waste and ensure that it meets minimum standards for end use. The ‘Is It Waste?’ tool provides a step-by-step approach for businesses to self-determine whether by-products and waste can be put to use or sold. Again, aspects such as market, product specifications and environmental risk are considered. This generates a single file where the answers to questions are stored, and this can be shared with the relevant national authorities to ensure compliance. There has been a lot of interest from industry in the two tools. This should help to increase consumer confidence and stimulate markets for waste-derived products, reducing the use of raw materials and the amount of waste going to landfill.

The field trials, for paper sludge, poultry litter ash, incinerator bottom ash aggregate and pulverised fuel ash, were carried out with the aim of maximising the uptake of quality protocol materials and providing a process for expanding the number of QPs. Full results of the analysis are given in the project’s final report, which provides a body of knowledge around these four materials that should see more of them being removed from landfill and returned to productive use. The results of the field trials inform the Environment Agency's approach to regulation of the materials to ensure no negative environmental impacts result from their use.

The innovative project tools are readily transferable. For instance, the adoption of the ‘Is It Waste?’ tool by other EU Member States would improve transparency around end of waste decisions, definitions of waste and legal interpretations of the Waste Framework Directive leading to a more consistent application between Member States. Wide uptake would also facilitate the movement of waste derived products between countries. One of the associate beneficiaries, Schap, is working to transfer the technology to the Netherlands.

The project has developed the QP Checker tool with the aim of adding two more UK QPs by the end of 2015. The coordinating beneficiary is committed to promoting the tools and developing them further. There is good potential to expand the tools to include other waste streams.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Waste - Waste recycling


waste recycling‚  end-of-pipe technology

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 2008/98 - Waste and repealing certain Directives (Waste Framework Directive) (19.11.200 ...
  • COM(2014)398 - "Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe" (02.07.2014)
  • COM(2015)614 - "Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" (02.12.2015)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator The Environment Agency of England and Wales
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The UK Environment Agency is a government body responsible for implementing EU and national environmental regulations in England and Wales. Its competences include environment protection, flood defence, water resources, fisheries, recreation, conservation and navigation.
Partners Environmental Services Association Limited, United Kingdom AgentSchap, The Netherlands The Association for Organics Recycling, United Kingdom The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, United Kingdom Department of Environment Northern Ireland, United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE10 ENV/UK/000176
Duration 12-SEP-2011 to 24-OCT -2014
Total budget 2,947,815.00 €
EU contribution 1,473,907.00 €
Project location South West (UK)(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Newsletter "Quality support for waste-derived products: Welco ...
Newsletter "Quality support for waste-derived products: Welco ...
Newsletter "Quality support for waste-derived products: Welco ...
Poster QP Checker Poster
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Article-Paper Newsletter - Spring 2014
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report "EQual Paper sludge field trials: Summary report" ...
Publication: Technical report "EQual Incinerator bottom ash aggregate(IBAA) fiel ...
Publication: Technical report "EQual Pulverised fuel ash (PFA) field trial: Summ ...
Publication: Technical report "EQual Poultry litter ash field trials: Summary re ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version