The fourth and final part of our series on waste awareness will cover Environmental Regulation and fundamental legal considerations regarding waste in the UK.
Everyone has a legal responsibility to ensure that they deal with waste properly and that it is disposed of in the right way. UK Environmental Regulations regarding waste control the keeping, transport, treatment, deposit and disposal of waste. It also covers all sections of waste management, including:
- Storage of waste at producers premises
- Registering waste carriers and brokers
- Licensing/permitting of waste treatment and disposal facilities
- Monitoring and control of waste
- Keeping appropriate records
- Specific control of hazardous waste
- Obligations for waste recycling or recovery
Waste legislation also specifies the obligations on Waste Collection Authorities (local councils) to collect waste and consider recycling.
Duty of Care
A fundamental tenant of Environmental Regulation concerning waste is duty of care. The purpose of the duty of care is to make sure that anyone who produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of waste, or acts as a broker, takes all reasonable measures to ensure that they and others they might hand the waste to, manage the waste according to the law and prevent its escape.
Duty of care requires appropriate records are kept by anyone who handles waste at any stage. Duty of care applies to all controlled waste, whether it comes from the household, commerce or industry. The waste producer has a clearly defined responsibility for waste that it produces to ensure that it is disposed of correctly.
A transfer note must be completed by both parties when waste is transferred from one party to another. Waste must be accurately described including a six digit European Waste Catalogue code. The written waste description must be adequate to allow the person receiving the waste to comply with their own legal obligations. Environmental Regulations requires all those who carry controlled waste to be registered with the relevant agency.
Waste producers have a responsibility to ensure that their waste is transferred to a registered waste carrier. Waste producers need to carry out regular checks on their waste contractors to ensure that they remain registered to carry waste. If the waste producer transfers the waste themselves, it must be to a suitable licensed disposal facility.
The main Government agencies in the UK concerned with the enforcement Environmental Regulation relating to waste are the Environment Agency (England & Wales), Scottish Environment Protection Agency and The Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland).
Hazardous Waste & Packaging Waste
Hazardous Waste Regulations requires wastes is dealt with carefully and safely. The classification of hazardous waste is complex and depends on the type of waste and the waste process from which it derives. When hazardous waste is transferred to a carrier, both the producer and the carrier need to check and sign the consignment note to comply with their duty of care. Packaged waste also needs to be packaged and labelled properly.
Hazardous waste sent to landfill has additional Waste Acceptance Criteria required by the Landfill Directive. Further information can be obtained from a specialist waste manager or waste management company.
The Packaging Waste Regulations 1997 require certain businesses to recover and recycle specified tonnages of packaging waste every year. Businesses must register with the relevant agency or via a compliance scheme as new targets have been set for 2008, 2010 and 2012. The regulations apply to any organisation with a turnover of over £2m p/a and producing or using more than 50 tonnes p/a of packaging. If it qualifies, the organisation will have to account for the recycling and recovery of a specified percentage of the waste it creates.
Safety & Environmental Aspects
Health & Safety Regulations impose requirements on employers and employees to safeguard their health and safety in the workplace. There are three key areas for waste when it comes to health & safety – storage, handling and dispatch of waste.
In most circumstances, machines are used to transport heavy waste. When heavy materials are carried by employees, care should be taken when lifting materials into skips or containers. Where there is any danger of cuts or contamination, gloves should be worn to carry waste materials. Risk assessments have to be carried out and employees must receive adequate training for performing these tasks.
There are a number of safety issues to consider when storing waste. These include:
- Personal protective equipment;
- Segregation of incompatible waste; and
Environmental aspects such as litter, odour, vermin, dust, vapours, spillages or leaks are also a consideration when storing waste. To minimise potential impacts adequate safeguards must be put in place for storing waste according to its type.
Landfill Tax has caused a lot of controversy recently. The object of landfill tax is to make landfilling more expensive and encourage waste producers to consider alternative options for their waste. There are two rates of landfill tax depending on whether it’s active waste (most kinds of household, commercial or industrial waste) or inactive waste (such as rocks or soil). Landfill tax is a big costs to businesses annually so the incentive to find alternative options for waste are significant.
There are significant penalties for breaches of Environmental Regulation concerning waste. Cases tried in Magistrates or Crown Courts have imposed high penalties such as fines (up to £50,000 in the Magistrates and unlimited in the Crown Court) and/or imprisonment (up to 12 months in the Magistrates and 5 years in the Crown Court), so it pays to follow the requirements of Environmental Regulation.
If you have any questions about effective waste disposal and waste management for your office, call The Organised Cleaning Company on 020 74584433 and talk to one of our team today!
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