After Brexit: Government to revoke three EU waste laws

The UK Government has announced it is to revoke three EU laws pertaining to waste. The announcement comes as part of a wider post-Brexit revocation of 600 retained EU laws (REUL) across UK legislation. 

EU flag black and whiteThe three EU waste laws being revoked are in relation to the safe management of nuclear waste; the calculation methods for verifying compliance, and the handling of metallic mercury wastes. Of these, the first two apply to schemes no longer in operation in the UK, rendering them useless, and the third law will be amended.

Safe nuclear waste management

The ​​’Commission Decision of 17 July 2007 on establishing the European High Level Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management’ (2007/530/Euratom) is now inoperable as the UK has left the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). This law previously applied to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and instigated a high-level group of representatives from among Euratom member states to discuss and collaborate on issues of Nuclear Safety and Waste Management.

The UK officially left Euratom on 31 January 2020 as a result of Brexit. The UK passed the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018, which makes provisions for the government to pass regulations on nuclear safeguarding.

Calculation methods for verifying compliance

The ‘Commission Decision of 18 November 2011 establishing rules and calculation methods for verifying compliance with the targets set in Article 11(2) of Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council’ (2011/753/EU) also relates to a requirement which is also no longer relevant to the UK.

The legislation originally set out rules for Defra in calculating recycling targets as well as the obligation to publish progress reports on 2022 recycling targets. It ensured that the UK reported in the same way as EU Member States.

The law also required the Secretary of State to publish a report by 1 January 2022 on whether England met targets in Directive 2008/98/EC. This report was published last year, and the Provision is therefore spent.

The Government has not achieved its 2020 target and is not expected to do so for several years based on current performance trends. The removal of this requirement has not been replaced with any formal mechanism for the Government to report on UK-wide progress towards reaching the 50 per cent.

Handling metallic mercury wastes

The one law that will be amended is the ‘Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2013’ (S.I. 2013/766) – revoking the original REUL.

This regulation governs the storage and disposal of waste mercury, generally considered to be a liquid waste. In particular, prohibiting the disposal of this to landfill, as such any amendment to the regulations will make provision for this.

The regulations require that all storage facilities for mercury must be licensed by the Environment Agency. The licence must specify the maximum amount of mercury that can be stored at the facility, the conditions under which the mercury must be stored, and the procedures for emergency response.

However, the amendment is likely to mean that the storage of metallic mercury waste is now considered a major accident hazard within internal UK legislation, and facilities storing this waste would need to comply with regulations relating to the storage of major accident hazards.

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