Waste Regulations and Civil Sanctions

WasteRegulations1New Regulations that affect all types of businesses that deal with waste have come into force this year.

Advises Hayley Saunders of law firm Shoosmiths, the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 “require businesses to confirm that they have applied the waste management hierarchy when transferring waste, and include a declaration on their waste transfer note or consignment note.”

She explains that the waste management hierarchy sets out the options organisations should consider when dealing with waste:

  • Prevention
  • Preparing for re-use
  • Recycling
  • Recovery
  • Disposal

Businesses are required to consider the hierarchy now, but the obligation to declare this on the waste transfer note does not come into force until 1st October 2011.

Civil sanctions for Environment Agency

Since the beginning of this year the Environment Agency has had new enforcement powers, known as civil sanctions. The powers were granted last year under the Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010 to provide the Environment Agency with a greater range of options in the enforcement of environmental offences against businesses. As well as prosecution and criminal penalties being imposed by a Court, the Agency will be able to impose civil sanctions without commencing court proceedings.

This aims to ensure that the sanctions are proportionate to the level of seriousness of the offence and the financial circumstances of the offender.
New enforcement powers available to the Agency include:

  • enforcement notices and works notices (where contravention can be prevented or needs to be remedied);
  • prohibition notices (where there is an imminent risk of serious environmental damage);
  • suspension or revocation of environmental licences;
  • variation of licence conditions, injunctions; and
  • carrying out remedial works (where remedial works are carried out, the Agency warns it will seek to recover the full costs incurred from those responsible).

WasteRegulations2Wasted opportunity?

Every organisation that has waste management responsibility will be only too familiar with the extensive amount of waste law that must be complied with, even for a traditionally ‘low risk’ environment such as an office.

According to Colin Malcolm, Principal Consultant, Environment at Workplace Law, aside from the issues of legal compliance, waste is a significant cost to business, so it’s important to look at measures that can reduce costs, particularly in the present economic climate.

For example with the Waste Framework Directive, the priority issue is prevention; which means businesses should look to develop practical waste minimisation solutions, including:

  • Does your business understand the true cost of waste, and have all practical opportunities for efficiency been realised?
  • Does your business understand the full environmental impacts that result from the inefficient use of raw materials and waste generation, during their entire lifecycle?

So before sending waste offsite for recovery or landfill, it is important to determine that all practical opportunities for waste minimisation have been identified.

Carrying out a thorough waste minimisation audit will often identify opportunities to stop waste being produced in the first place, and this should always be the first port of call in addressing opportunities to improve waste performance.

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