Latest developments

Keeping you up to date, Sam Sandilands has the lowdown on the latest happenings in waste law

Sam Sandilands is an expert in waste law at Burges Salmon solicitors and can be contacted by email at [email protected]

Government Waste Review published

 Defra published the results of the review it conducted into waste policy in England on 14 June 2011. The results reiterate the government’s intention to move to a zerowaste economy and define an action plan for the future. A number of commitments are identified to help achieve a zero-waste economy, including:

• The development of a full Waste Prevention Programme by December 2013;

• A commitment to work together with businesses to reduce waste and prevent waste occurring where possible;

• The launch of funding for innovative reward and recognition schemes;

• Abolition of bin fines and taxes that are unjust; and

• The development of greater powers to deal with flytipping.

In addition, the review expresses a commitment to work with councils to develop and implement recycling and waste services commitments, including setting out guidelines for councils to abide by when delivering waste services, and provide support to councils and businesses in developing ‘recycling-on-the-go’ schemes.

Civil sanctions for breaches of Environmental Permitting Regulations

As has been widely reported, on 6 April 2010 civil sanctions were introduced for a number of environmental and waste offences, which gave the Environment Agency greater powers in the regulation of such offences. Civil sanctions can be imposed as an alternative to criminal prosecution and include monetary fines, stop notices and enforcement undertakings (a legally enforceable promise to take certain remedial action). The intention is that by using civil sanctions environmental and waste legislation will be better enforced in future and compliance with regulations will be improved.

To date, enforcement undertakings have been offered by 30 organisations guilty of breaching environmental/waste legislation, including undertakings to fund local environmental schemes and donate to environmental charities. Invensys plc was one such organisation, given an undertaking to pay £21,000 as a result of packaging waste offences, which it is reported will be used to provide benefits to those affected by the breach, including the funding of a community recycling initiative and other environmental improvements within the community.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 were drafted in order to widen the scope of civil sanctions to include offences under the environmental permitting regime. The proposed amendments were put on hold in February whilst a cross-government review of the position on civil sanctions was carried out. That review has now concluded that civil sanctions should be widened to include offences under the environment-permitting regime and as such will significantly increase the potential application of civil sanctions. The amendment regulations are due to come into force in April 2012 and the resulting extension of the civil sanctions regime places even greater emphasis on the importance of those operating in the waste industry to ensure they are aware of the potential offences and avoid breaches. Where breaches do occur, operators might want to consider using enforcement undertakings as a means of avoiding prosecution and exerting some control over the way in which breaches are rectified.


Draft Landfill Regulations 2011 published

The draft Landfill (Maximum Landfill Amount) Regulations 2011 were published by government in June, and came into force on 1 October 2011. The regulations are intended to increase the maximum amounts of biodegradable municipal waste that must be diverted from landfill for each target year in the UK.

Under the Landfill Directive, landfill targets were imposed on member states in order to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste being sent to landfill, with the intention of reducing the damaging effects of landfilling on the environment. The directive was incorporated into UK law under the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003, which defined biodegradable municipal waste as general household and garden waste that was capable of undergoing aerobic or anaerobic decomposition – but only if such waste was collected under a waste collection arrangement by a local authority.

The landfill diversion targets have become more stringent as a result of a review as to what should be considered biodegradable municipal waste. The regulations amend the interpretation of what should be considered ‘municipal waste’ to include commercial waste collected by the private sector. The amended interpretation of ‘municipal waste’ substantially increases the amount of biodegradable waste that is subject to the diversion targets under the Landfill Directive.