The right side of the law

Sam Sandilands, expert in waste law, fills us in on recent changes (or attempts at changes) to waste legislation

Problems hit Recovered Wood Quality Protocol

A second attempt by the Environment Agency and WRAP to produce a Recovered Wood Quality Protocol has been unsuccessful. The aim of the proposed protocol was to define at what point recovered wood ceases to be classed as waste, and, as a result, ceases to be subject to waste legislation. The failure will concern wood recyclers who will continue to be obliged to adhere to relevant waste legislation for the storage and processing of recovered wood with the associated costs and administrative burdens.

There appear to have been three key issues preventing progress on the protocol. Firstly, following a financial impact assessment, it has been suggested that there would be little cost savings, as wood recovery and recycling is already well established. Secondly, there would be limited carbon savings. Thirdly, the risk assessment carried out to ascertain the viability of producing a protocol found that a number of recovered wood products can still be a threat to the environment. The diversity of contaminants also seems to have been an underlying problem.


First Environment Agency prosecution against producer for failing to comply with WEEE Directive

The Environment Agency (EA) has brought the first prosecution against a producer under the UK WEEE Regulations against a hairdressing supplies wholesaler, Aston and Fincher Ltd (AFL). AFL was charged with 31 breaches of the WEEE Regulations and packaging regulations from 2001 to 2008, to which it pleaded guilty. The company was ordered to pay a total of £30,905, which represented fines, compensation and costs. The breaches arose as a result of failure to comply with the regulations in respect of imported electrical goods.

The EA appears to be using the prosecution as a deterrent to other companies caught by the regulations, the officer in charge of the investigation making it clear that companies with producer responsibilities need to understand the requirements and make sure that they have procedures in place to ensure compliance. The EA also recognised the unfair competitive advantage secured by AFL as a result of the company avoiding the costs associated with complying with the regulations. 

AFL has stated that it failed to comply with the regulations simply because it was unaware of the requirements, pointing out that it had pleaded guilty at the earliest stage and was now compliant.


Consultation begins on how to implement revised Waste Framework Directive

Defra’s consultation on how to implement the revised EU Waste Framework Directive (rWFD) into UK law closed on 16 September. The areas covered by the consultation were the promotion of waste prevention, recycling, better use of resources and the protection of human health and the environment.  
The consultation included four main proposals:

  • The implementation of the ‘waste hierarchy’ as a legal obligation, in practice requiring those producing waste, other than households, to deal with their waste in the most sustainable way possible.
  • A statutory target to recycle half of all waste from households by 2020.
  • A statutory target to recover 70 per cent of construction and demolition waste by 2020.
  • Setting up separate waste collections where practical for waste paper, metal, plastic and glass by 2015.  

Although the rWFD requires member states to encourage separate collection for biowaste, Defra did not include a proposal covering this in the consultation as it considers that current biowaste regulations meet the rWFD requirements.
Member states are required to bring the rWFD into force by 12 December 2010, which gives Defra an ambitious timescale in which to put in place the required legislation.

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