Waste management: Navigating waste regulation

By Andy Garside, Group Technical Waste Manager

As legislation tightens and disposal options diminish, waste management is an increasing challenge for many businesses and organisations. With environmental protection increasing and strict liability applying to waste transfer, it is important to get it right.

Waste is defined as “any substance or object that the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard”. The meaning of “discard” applies to “disposal” and “recovery” operations and processes and can be intentional or unintentional on the part of the holder.

By and large, waste producers are legally responsible for that waste until its final destruction (e.g. incineration or treatment) or it has been recycled. Irrespective of the number of parties in that chain of custody, the producer must ensure it is both handled and stored safely and securely right up until its final destination.

Under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 the duty of care legislation makes provision for the safe management of waste to protect human health and the environment. Each holder in the waste chain shares the duty of care obligations, and failure to comply is an offence subject to an unlimited fine on conviction.

This code applies to all ‘waste holders’ – anyone who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats, disposes of or, are a dealer or broker that has control of, controlled waste in England or Wales.

If you are in receipt of waste, it is important to cooperate with the previous waste holders to ensure you observe any measures already in place to comply with their duty of care.

It is also necessary to assess and classify waste, as set out in the waste classification guidance, before any waste is collected, recovered or disposed of. This will establish whether it is hazardous waste, and determine which controls apply to its movement to prevent harm to people and the environment. Where hazardous waste is concerned a consignment note will be required.

Certain wastes may also be classified as Dangerous Goods and must be transported in accordance with The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations. 

Dangerous Goods are assigned different classes ranging from one to nine. This classification covers materials and substances from the highly dangerous, including explosives, flammables and acids, to more routine products such as paints, solvents and pesticides.

When transferring waste to another party, you must ensure that a waste transfer note (a written description of the waste) is agreed and signed by both you and the next holder.

In compliance with your duty of care, you must ensure that any waste is transferred to an authorised individual or establishment.

Most recovery and disposal operators will require an environmental permit detailing specific conditions on how a waste operation must be carried out. This will include limits to the quantity of waste handled, restrictions on the nature of the waste, and measures needed to safeguard both the environment and human health.

Rather than a permit, some waste activities may qualify for waste exemption. However, the exemption must be registered and these too are subject to strict conditions.

Amid complex and rapidly changing legislation, a specialist partner will help you save both time and money, as well as enhance your reputation for competent, environmentally responsible waste management.