Increasingly people are becoming more aware of environmental impact, both in terms of individuals and organisations. The Waste Strategy for England and Wales was first published in 2000, and since then, the policy on this subject has shifted several times. Therefore, it is important to be aware of environmental and waste law.

Waste hierarchy

The laws on waste are based on what is known as the waste hierarchy- this starts with preventing waste, preparing items to be used and recycled, and finally, disposal. Prevention is often considered the priority in this hierarchy, minimising the amount that needs to be reused, recycled, or disposed of.

Avoiding landfill

Since the publication in 2010 of The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations and Landfill Allowance Scheme (Wales), there has been a greater emphasis on reducing the amount and type of waste that can be sent to landfill. There are also similar regulations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Increase recycling

One of the most prominent changes has been the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge. While initially met with some scepticism, research has shown that this has significantly reduced the amount, with figures in 2014 suggesting this was as much as 86 per cent.

While there has been pressure to change the culture on an individual level, there has also been a push to do so on a wider industrial level. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007, was brought in to address this, requiring companies to change their processes to make recycling easier and recycle a specific amount of packaging.

Hazardous waste

For households in the UK, there are allowances for a certain amount of hazardous materials that can be disposed of in regular disposals. A larger amount needs to be taken to a specialist facility. It is important to check with the Environment Agency to see how much can be safely disposed with a regular collection in your local area and how much has to be taken to a specialist facility (also items such as batteries and shredded tyres can’t be taken to landfill sites in the UK).

Shared responsibility

A crucial element of these regulations is the concept of shared responsibility. What this essentially highlights is that everyone, on some level, produces some amount of waste. What is encouraged is for everyone to look at what they are disposing of and what they can do about it.

On an individual level, this can include making sure the correct items are put in the recycling, food waste caddies are properly used, and so forth. For businesses, it is about considering avoiding waste. For example, some supermarkets offer significant discounts on food that is just past the sell by date or donating surplus food to charities.

We can help

As stated before, the regulations and guidelines have changed in recent years. Keeping up to date on this is important, both in terms of keeping to the law but also emphasising the environmental credentials of your business. For more information and to discuss this in more detail, contact our specialist environmental representatives today.