Hundreds of waste management rules changed or dropped


Image from Red Tape Challenge

Around 380 pages of waste management rules are to be dropped or changed by March 2015, David Cameron announced today (27 January).

The changes form part of the government’s Red Tape Challenge, which aims to save businesses money by removing administrative burden.

Speaking at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conference today, the UK Prime Minister said that that a total of 3,000 rules will be dropped or changed by 2015, saving businesses more than £850 million a year.

One of the areas most affected will be environmental guidance, with the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) reportedly cutting 80,000 pages of guidance to save businesses around £100 million per year.

Affected waste rules

Under the changes, 380 pages of waste guidance will be scrapped or modified, however, many of these changes have already been announced.

Those relating to the waste industry include the introduction of the electronic recording system (Edoc) from 29 January 2014 (which could save businesses an estimated £8.7 million per year) and introducing regulatory changes on waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE). These include closing the ‘loophole’ that allowed overcharging for the price of evidence to take place, and implementing a de minimis threshold for smaller producers (as outlined in the new WEEE Regulations).

Other changes include:

  • removing the Joint Waste Authorities (Proposals) Regulations 2009, as local authorities ‘have never used the provisions and have instead created other more informal partnerships’;
  • removing the requirement for businesses to fill in Waste Transfer Notes by allowing them to use other forms of evidence instead, such as invoices, to record certain required information;
  • allowing direct electronic upload of hazardous waste returns to reduce the amount of paperwork businesses have to produce;
  • amending the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations, exempting more small businesses from the regulations;
  • bringing in ‘stronger powers’ for local authorities and the Environment Agency to seize vehicles suspected of involvement in flytipping and waste crime; and
  • exempting more small businesses from the battery producer responsibility regulations, and reducing ‘burdens’, especially on SMEs, by removing the requirement for some distributors to take back waste batteries, and simplifying record keeping/reporting requirements and approval processes.

The waste industry has already seen waste management rule changes since the launch of the Red Tape Challenge in 2011, including the removal of the legal requirement for construction companies to produce site waste management plans (SWMPs).

‘Slashing needless regulation’

Speaking at the event, Cameron said: “Supporting business is a crucial part of our long term economic plan, creating jobs and security for all. That is why, among so many other things, I have insisted on slashing needless regulation. We will be the first government in modern history to have reduced – rather than increased – domestic business regulation during our time in office…

“[W]e have trawled through thousands of pieces of regulation – from the serious to the ridiculous, and we will be scrapping or amending over 3,000 regulations – saving business well over £850 million every single year. That’s half a million pounds which will be saved for businesses every single day of the year.”

Although in-depth details of the affected rules and regulations have not yet been released, Cameron will announce that government will:

  • scrap health and safety law for self-employed people;
  • remove the law that makes businesses automatically liable for an accident that isn’t their fault;
  • reduce 100 ‘overlapping and confusing standards applied to new homes’ to less than 10; and
  • remove the rule that requires childminders who give food to children have to register as a food business (as well as a childminder)

Further details on the changes will be released in the coming weeks.

‘Emperor’s new clothes’

Despite the number of rules that will be amended or changed, however, commentators have indicated that the announcement’s impact will be minimal for the waste sector.

Speaking of the changes, Phil Conran at 360 Environmental told Resource that the announcement served as an “emperor’s new clothes job”, adding: "From a waste perspective, it is difficult to see that the Red Tape Challenge has had that much of an impact. The reduction in administrative burden on small businesses in WEEE was welcome, but most waste legislation is tied down by European requirements, so there would seem to be scope only to tinker around the edges. Many of the changes do little to change the burden, but are simply a tidying exercise which, whilst welcome in some areas, must take up vast amounts of Civil Service and legal resource that you wonder might not be better spent elsewhere."

Other commentators are worried, however, that the changes send the wrong message and could have detrimental impacts on the environment. Friends of the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director Craig Bennett said: “The government must stop making the environment a scapegoat for the economic challenges we face.

“Important rules that safeguard our health and environment are being lost in this ideologically-driven war on red tape.

“Ministers are allowing firms to frack under peoples’ homes without telling them, and planning to scrap rules to make developers build homes with a low environmental impact.

“Building a strong economy and protecting the environment are two sides of the same coin – we won’t build a strong, sustainable economy if we sacrifice the long term-future of our planet for short-term financial gain.”

Read more about the Red Tape Challenge.