Open-access content 28th September 2011
New European waste regulations coming into force this month aim to make businesses greener by formalising the process of transferring waste between organisations
29 September 2011
On 28th September 2011, companies will be required to adhere to the new Waste Hierarchy before disposing of their rubbish.
Businesses will be responsible for monitoring the type of waste they produce, the volume of it, the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) codes and the methods of disposal used.
The hierarchy sets out, in order of priority, the waste management options that should be considered prior to disposal. In order of priority, these are: prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling, recovery, (e.g. energy recovery incineration) and disposal. Effectively, the old principle of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ has been updated to accommodate this new waste framework.
Under the new regulations, businesses will be obliged to confirm in writing that they have applied the waste hierarchy when transferring their waste. The process of documenting this activity will mean including a declaration on waste transfer / consignment notes. When waste is passed on, the waste producer will need to declare that they have applied the waste management hierarchy (using the words “I confirm that I have fulfilled my duty to apply the waste hierarchy as required by regulation 12 of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011”).
Companies will also be asked to keep records of all this activity for inspection by the Environment Agency. If a business’s waste management decisions fail to comply with the waste hierarchy, they will be asked to justify them or face possible prosecution. More importantly, waste regulations will become tighter in the years to come. From January 1st 2015, waste producers will be required to separate paper, metal, plastic and glass prior to it leaving site (the UK is obliged to introduce this aspect of the EC Directive by then.)
Guidance offered by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) explains that there is a legal duty on businesses that produce or handle waste to ‘take all such measures as are reasonable in the circumstances to apply the waste hierarchy to prevent waste and to apply the hierarchy as a priority order when you transfer waste to another person’. The definition of ‘producing or handling waste’ includes importing, producing, carrying, keeping, treating or disposing of waste, and those organisations responsible for transferring waste.
Defra’s guidance also maps a variety of materials against the waste hierarchy to give organisations an idea of what option might best be applied in given circumstances. (Revised ‘definition of waste’ guidance will be offered later in the year.)
The waste management contractors you already deal with will be encouraged by the Government to explain to their customers what the requirements are and how they should prioritise their waste. LIME is certainly playing our part in this process. The question does remain, though, of just how the new regulations will be enforced in our current economic environment?
From my perspective, I have no doubt that these new rules will have a positive impact on the environment and will help reduce the carbon footprint of businesses across the UK. However, I do feel that they do not go far enough. I’d like to see stronger penalties for businesses that don’t treat their waste responsibly. These regulations may help to focus the mind, but in fact, systems that allow organisations to track their own waste have been available for some time. The database we use at LIME is capable of tracking the waste metrics for a whole organisation if necessary and allows us to produce complete schedules of all waste types and lists of any relevant regulations.
As a part of our ‘zero to landfill’ policy, last year, 100% of the waste we handled was diverted from landfill.”
Karen James is commercial manager at LIME, the total waste division of PHS Datashred