Recycling & Waste Management


According to figures from DEFRA and the Environment Agency, on average the UK sends approximately 64 million tonnes of waste to landfill per annum. 

The Duty of care is one of the cornerstones of waste regulation, placing requirements on waste producers to ensure that:
• waste is handled and stored safely
• the potential for vandalism, scavenging and wind blowing is minimised
• the nature of waste is clearly understood
• waste is only transferred to an authorised person and disposed at an authorised site
• Waste Transfer Notes are completed and retained for a minimum period of two years

Around a quarter of this waste is attributable to municipal disposal, and a third to commercial and industrial waste (excluding inert waste). While business is making significant strides to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and improve broader waste management practices, there is much more to be done, which will primarily be driven through regulation.

Waste Framework Directive
Aside from producer responsibility laws, mainstream waste legislation is shortly to be amended to include resource efficiency requirements. Advises Colin Malcolm, Principal Environmental Consultant, at Workplace Law:
“The current consultation on the Waste Framework Directive, which will be transposed into UK law by December 2010, will result in mandatory resource efficiency measures being introduced for all waste producers through an amendment to Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. “The Waste Framework Directive has many implications for waste management but perhaps one of the most intriguing is the requirement that, under the current stage two consultation, producers of waste will be required to provide a declaration on their Transfer or Consignment Notes, confirming that they have applied the principles of the waste hierarchy to their wastes. The waste hierarchy is a simple and well trodden principle for effective waste management with elimination at source the most preferred option, followed by minimisation, reuse, recycling, disposal with recovery and lastly disposal to landfill. “It is also important to highlight that the Waste Framework Directive will also amend the current regulatory system for waste carrier registration. Currently, businesses carrying their own waste, with the exception of construction and demolition waste, do not require a waste carrier license. The WFD will require an amendment to this whereby businesses that ‘normally and regularly transport waste they produced themselves’ will be required to be licensed. “Other current consultations around waste management include restrictions on the landfilling of certain biodegradable and recyclable wastes. While the implications for business are currently unclear, the direction of policy is not and the future of waste management is undoubtedly shifting towards regulatory driven resource efficiency measures on all waste producers.”

The future 

The Government is carrying out a full review of waste policy in England, looking at the most effective ways of reducing waste, maximising the money to be made from waste and recycling, and how waste policies affect local communities and individual households. The review will look at:

• the effect of waste policies on local communities and individual households, and how local authorities can best work with people to make the best decisions;

• maximising the contribution of the waste and recycling industries to the UK economically and environmentally

• how we work towards the ‘zero waste economy’, and drastically reduce the amount of waste created and valuable resources sent to landfill, looking at the entire process from source to end of life; and

• New approaches to dealing with commercial waste and promoting ‘responsibility deals’, reducing the amount of waste generated by production and retail.

Civil Sanctions
Under the Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010, presently in draft form, the Environment Agency is granted new civil powers to complement existing regulatory powers. This gives it the discretion to avoid having to take businesses that commit certain types of offences to court for environmental breaches, but rather use civil sanctions. These could include monetary penalties, the power to make business repair environmental damage, and the power to stop businesses from continuing operations that are damaging the environment. Organisations will also be given a formal opportunity to restore voluntarily any damage they cause.
The Environment Agency will still take criminal cases against business and individuals that cause deliberate, reckless and grave environmental damage. A consultation on the new civil sanctions has just ended and the results will be published in the Autumn.


Carbon is one of the key environmental issues of our generation, and its main environmental impact – the potential to influence global climate – is now firmly entrenched within national legislation and international policy. Much of this focus is on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, but there are many other substances that can affect climate. Methane is a greenhouse gas and is approximately 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It is released in significant quantities from landfill sites, due to the anaerobic breakdown of biodegradable materials. Approximately 40% of the UK’s methane emissions come from landfill sites and, to this effect, DEFRA has committed to reducing methane emissions from waste by one million tonnes by 2020 as part of the UK commitment under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Businesses that identify, benchmark and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions can now also include emissions from waste in their calculations, thus broadening their reporting requirements and their understanding of the wider impacts associated with waste disposal.

Plymouth City Council has been ordered to pay £11,742 in fines and Costs for selling TV monitors and other potentially harmful electrical waste to unauthorised recyclers. The case was brought by the Environment Agency. In January 2009, the Agency visited a local recycling business after receiving reports of illegal waste activity. An officer saw a large amount of waste electrical goods, including TV monitors and washing machines, stored outside in the open.

A camping and outdoor clothing retailer has been ordered to pay £17,000 in fines and compensation for packaging waste offences committed over a ten-year period. The company should have been registered with the Environment Agency and was obliged to recover and recycle a portion of its packaging waste, as well as filing a certificate at the end of each year to confirm it had met these obligations.


• Environmental Protection Act 1990.
• Environment Act 1995.
• The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (England and Wales) Regulations 1997 (amended 2008).
• The Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002 (amended 2005).
• End of Life Vehicles Regulations 2003.
• The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (amended 2006).
• End of Life Vehicles (Producer Responsibility) Regulations 2005.
• Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2007.
• The Waste Management Licensing Amendment (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) (Scotland) Regulations 2007.
• Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Amendment 2008.

Further information
Workplace Law Group: Waste Management: Law and Practice

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