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Detailed Practice Notes written by our Professional Support Lawyers, guiding you through the key issues in each topic.
Waste - overview
Business producing or disposing of waste must comply with a range of regulations to avoid prosecution. Therefore, questions about regulatory compliance are now an essential part of due diligence when:
buying property, or
acquiring a company that owns or occupies property
Waste management issues must also be addressed as part of any construction project. Registration requirements and handling procedures differ according to the type of waste.
Waste is 'hazardous' if it is harmful to human health or to the environment, either immediately or over an extended period of time. Producers of hazardous waste must:
notify their premises to the Environment Agency
ensure safe management of hazardous waste
provide 'cradle-to-grave' documentation for the movement of hazardous waste
require people who receive hazardous waste to keep thorough records of it and provide quarterly returns to the Environment Agency
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (packaging waste) Regulations 2007 oblige companies to recover and recycle packaging waste to meet national targets.
'Producers' with a turnover of £2 million or above who handle 50 tonnes or more of packaging in a calendar year must either:
register with the Environment Agency, or
join a compliance scheme on an annual basis
For this purpose 'producers' include manufacturers, converters, importers, pack-fillers and sellers, who supply to another part of the chain or to the end user.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment ('WEEE') Directive came into force in January 2007.
Businesses, schools, hospitals, and government agencies disposing of WEEE must ensure that all separately collected WEEE is treated and recycled.
Retailers and other distributors who sell electrical and electronic equipment to the public must ensure that their customers can return WEEE free of charge. This is on a one-for-one basis, as long as the new equipment is of a similar type and has the same function as the old equipment. Private householders can (but do not have to) return their WEEE to retailers who offer in-store take back. Retailers are able to set up alternative collection systems as long as they are still convenient for customers.
Agricultural waste regulations
New agricultural waste regulations came into force on 15 May 2006. They regulate the disposal of agricultural waste and determine whether it can be burnt, buried, stored or used on the farm or whether it needs to be sent elsewhere.
The regulations also impose a duty of care when storing or passing waste to someone else.
Site waste management
The Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008 came into force in England and Wales on 6 April 2008. They require construction projects over £300,000 (excluding VAT) in value to implement a Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP):
to promote the economic use of construction materials and methods so that waste is minimised and any waste that is produced can be re-used, recycled or recovered in other ways before disposal options are explored, and
to reduce fly-tipping, by restricting the opportunities available for the illegal disposal of waste by ensuring compliance with existing legal controls and providing a full audit trail of any waste that is removed from the construction site.
SWMPs apply to all aspects of construction work including preparatory work such as demolition and excavation. They are required for civil engineering and engineering projects as well as projects involving the maintenance, alteration and decoration of existing structures. The installation, maintenance or removal of electrical, gas, water, sewage and electronic communications are also covered. Routine maintenance operations such as gully cleaning or grass cutting, as opposed to maintenance of a structure, do not require a SWMP.
The client and principal contractor are jointly responsible for preparing the SWMP before starting work on site. The principal contractor is responsible for ensuring that waste is:
as far as is reasonably practicable.
For projects over £500,000 in value, the SWMP must forecast the quantities and types of waste produced, and accurately record actual waste quantities and movements (eg recycling, reuse or landfill) and identify actions taken to manage and minimise waste. They must compare the initial forecast against the actual waste produced and estimate the cost savings from implementing the SWMP.
The Regulations are enforced by the Environment Agency and the local authority with offenders liable to a fine or fixed penalty notices.
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