Environment law update: Waste 1

United Kingdom
United Kingdom

Waste strategy - England and Wales

5.1 The "Waste Strategy 2000" has been published for England and Wales, after some delay due to concerns over the effectiveness of the landfill tax and health effects associated with landfill. Statutory targets for recycling and composting are set for local authority responsibility at 25% for household waste by 2005, 30% by 2010 and 33% by 2015. By 2005, the target for reducing the amount of industrial and commercial waste landfilled is 85% of 1998 levels. The requirements of the EC Directive on landfill (99/31/EC) are reflected in the Strategy. It is recognised that new and stronger markets for recycled materials need to be developed and a new "Waste and Resources Action Programme" should help deliver increases in re-use, recycling and use of recycled materials. New plans to require Government departments to buy recycled products, starting with paper, are included in the Strategy, together with tradeable permits limiting the amount of waste local authorities can send to landfill sites. The concept of "producer responsibility" will be extended to cover newspapers and junk mail and public awareness will be raised through the "National Waste Awareness Initiative". Progress towards the goals of the Strategy will be reviewed on a five-yearly basis.(DETR, May 2000)

Waste strategy - Northern Ireland

5.2 The Minister for the Environment has launched the Department of the Environment's "Waste Management Strategy". Implementing the requirements of the EC Directive on landfill (99/31/EC), a key target in the Strategy is a two-thirds reduction in waste sent to landfill. The four main objectives of the Strategy are to reduce the amount of waste generated, to make best use of the waste generated, to minimise the risk of environmental damage or harm to human health and to move practices up the waste hierarchy towards re-use, recycling and recovery. (NI DOE, April 2000)

Packaging waste

5.3 The Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency have published their monitoring and enforcement strategies for 2000, as required by the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1999. Although companies registered under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 will normally be monitored every three years, examination of some registrants will be prioritised in 2000: companies suspected of having obligations which have not registered with the agencies or a compliance scheme; companies in sectors with suspected under-declaration of packaging; companies with particularly large recovery and recycling obligations; companies which have declared a significant proportion or quantity of exports, third party exports or special packaging; companies handling imported goods; and first time registrants.(Environment Agency News Release, 2 June 2000)

5.4 Responses are requested to DETR proposals that would revise the charging mechanism for registration fees for members of packaging waste compliance schemes. A number of difficulties for both the compliance schemes and the agencies (the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) have been identified with the existing scheme fee mechanism which was introduced under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997.(DETR, June 2000)

Waste recycling payments

5.5 The Environmental Protection (Waste Recycling Payments) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No 831) came into force on 17 April 2000 amending the Environmental Protection (Waste Recycling Payments) Regulations 1992. Section 52(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires waste disposal authorities to pay waste collection authorities amounts representing their net savings on the disposal of waste retained for recycling. These Regulations provide a Schedule of figures for determining a waste disposal authority's net saving of expenditure which increase the figures in the original 1992 Regulations by an average of 15% to take account of increases in landfill tax and rises in the Retail Price Index.(SO, April 2000)

Recycled content of newsprint

5.6 The Government reached a voluntary agreement with newspaper publishers to increase the recycled content of newspapers to 70% by the end of 2006, just before the Private Member's Bill on the Recycled Content of Newsprint entered the Committee stage in the House of Commons. Other targets agreed to were to increase the average recycled content of newsprint to 60% by the end of 2001, 65% by the end of 2003 and 70% by the end of 2006. These targets mirror those proposed in the Bill, although the Bill included an extra target of 80% by 2010. The promoter of the Bill has decided not to withdraw it following the voluntary agreement and it will proceed to the Report stage, however the Government are likely to drop it at this stage. (DETR, News Release, 19 April 2000)

Waste reporting

5.7 "Guidelines for Company Reporting on Waste" have been issued by the DETR to assist businesses in measuring and managing the environmental impact of their waste emissions and reporting on this in environmental annual reports. The process should contain the following steps: identify a "waste champion" who will be responsible for the process; identify the types of waste produced by the business; measure that waste; review what is done with the waste; set targets for improvement; identify the benefits that may be achieved; report the outcome; and repeat the cycle. The DETR also suggests that the guidelines may be used to measure other environmental impacts as part of an environmental management system, to meet legal requirements under the forthcoming Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations or to identify savings from reducing waste emissions as part of the "Making a Corporate Commitment" challenge (see paragraph 12.13).(DETR, June 2000)

End-of-life vehicles

5.8 The Cleaner Vehicles Task Force has published its second paper, "The Environmental Impact of Motor Manufacturing and Disposal of End-Of-Life Vehicles - Moving Towards Sustainability". The paper examines how the production of vehicles affects the environment and looks at the measures being taken to limit and reduce these impacts by Government and industry. The whole lifecycle of vehicles from manufacture from raw materials to disposal as waste and the potential for recycling is considered. The paper also considers the disposal and recovery of batteries, catalysts and tyres and looks at industry recycling and disposal initiatives before concluding with a review of sustainable development and its potential to bring about future efficiency improvements in the manufacturing process.(CVTF, April 2000)

Contaminated land funding

5.9 The junior Environment Minister, Chris Mullin, announced in the House of Commons that £21m is to be made available this year to English local authorities and the Environment Agency for investigating and remediating contaminated land. The largest sum provided for a single site goes to North Lincolnshire Council who need to spend a further £2.28 million on remediating an ex-ICI agrochemical works site. (DETR News Release, 12 April 2000)

Landfill tax

5.10 "Effects of the Landfill Tax: Reduced Disposal of Inert Wastes to Landfill" has been published on the DETR website, confirming the growth of illegal dumping of waste since the introduction of the landfill tax. Since the introduction of the tax in 1996, it has been widely reported that golf courses and farms have become prime destinations for the disposal of inert waste such as construction and demolition waste. The report, which was prepared by Ecotec, concludes that landfilling of inert materials has fallen from around 66m tonnes per annum before the tax was introduced to around 30m tonnes now. The report recommends a series of policy initiatives to tackle the abuse of the tax and claims that the availability of reliable statistical information is currently unacceptable and that data provision improvements should be implemented immediately. It also recommends that the exemption for construction and demolition waste should be replaced with one that ensures that materials such as asbestos, contaminated soil and paint are not acceptable, requiring the pre-separation of demolition waste to ensure that environmental damage is limited. (DETR, April 2000)

Waste management - Scotland

5.11 The Scottish Environmental Services Association was launched in May as an additional section to the Environmental Services Association, the main trade association for the UK waste management industry, representing companies providing waste management and related environmental services. The decision to establish a Scottish section recognises the impact of devolution on the industry and the need to provide a local focus for waste management. The Scottish National Waste Strategy will provide the context for the work of the Association. (Scottish Executive News Release, 9 May 2000)

Radioactive waste

5.12 The Environment Agency is to conduct a wide ranging consultation exercise into the applications by BNFL for authorisations to discharge radioactive waste from eight Magnox nuclear power stations. Draft authorisations which tighten discharge limits have been prepared by the Agency but no decisions will be made on the applications until responses have been received. A special summary consultation paper has been prepared as part of the exercise which goes beyond the Agency's statutory consultation duties.(EA News Release, 14 June 2000)

European Union

Packaging standards

5.13 The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has approved five standards for packaging. The standards have been prepared by CEN working groups comprised of packaging industry experts, government officials and NGO representatives. Once formally adopted by the European Commission and published in the Official Journal, all packaging that complies with the standards will be deemed to be in conformity with the "essential requirements" of the Directive on packaging and packaging waste (94/62/EC). The approved standards include an "umbrella standard" on requirements for the use of European Standards in the field of packaging and packaging waste, whilst others cover source reduction, material recycling, energy recovery and composting.(CEN, April 2000)

End-of-life vehicles

5.14 The proposal for the Directive on end-of-life vehicles is nearing adoption after agreement was reached on a final text by the Conciliation Committee in May. The two main problem areas were the date of effect of the provision on producer responsibility for free take back of vehicles and the treatment of heavy metals. In the agreed text, free take back will come into effect from 1 January 2001 for vehicles put on the market from that date and from 1 January 2007 for vehicles put on the market before 1 January 2001. Vehicle manufacturers will meet all or a significant part of the take back costs. Provision is made however for Member States to introduce free take back earlier than these dates. The prohibition on the use of lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in vehicle materials and components will be introduced from 1 January 2003. The negotiated text will now be adopted, subject to the agreement of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. (European Commission News Release, 23 May 2000)


5.15 An amended proposal for a Directive on the incineration of waste has been issued. This proposal, which covers both non-hazardous and hazardous waste, is in the final stages of the adoption process and negotiations are taking place between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament though the Conciliation Committee. Five years after the Directive comes into force, the existing Directives on the incineration of municipal waste (89/369/EEC and 89/429/EEC) and hazardous waste (94/67/EC) will be repealed.(OJ C150, 30 May 2000)

Ship-generated waste

5.16 The European Commission has published its Opinion on the European Parliament's amendments to the Council's Common Position regarding the proposal for a Directive on port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues. The proposed Directive aims to reduce marine pollution by providing adequate waste reception facilities in all EU ports including recreational ports and marinas. The Directive would apply to all ships, fishing vessels and recreational craft. Ports will be required to adopt a fee system and to encourage vessels to use the facilities rather than discharge wastes at sea. Member States will be required to approve and monitor a waste management plan for each port. The proposals are expected to be subject to further negotiations, delaying implemen-tation further. (COM(2000)236, 19 April 2000)

Waste list

5.17 The European Commission has adopted a Decision that will replace the European Waste Catalogue and the Hazardous Waste List (Decisions 94/3/EC and 94/104/EC respectively). The new list, which comes into effect in 2002, is to be updated on a regular basis and includes both hazardous and non-hazardous waste.(European Commission, May 2000)

Waste electrical and electronic equipment

5.18 Proposals for two Directives on electrical and electronic waste have been published: a proposal for a Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (the "WEEE Directive"); and a proposal for a Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. A third directive on the design and manufacture of such equipment will be put forward later this year (see paragraph 5.19). The WEEE Directive would introduce extensive take-back and recovery obligations for producers of electrical waste, including most household appliances, IT and telecommunication equipment, lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools, electric toys and video games, medical equipment systems, monitoring and control instruments and automatic dispensers. The second Directive would require the phase out of the use of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and brominated flame retardants in such equipment by 2008, subject to some exemptions.(COM(2000)347, June 2000)

5.19 A draft proposal has been published for internal purposes for a Directive on electrical and electronic equipment (the "EEE Directive"). This would regulate the design and manufacture of EEE to minimise the overall impact of equipment on the environment during its whole lifecycle. Under the proposed rules, manufacturers would have to design and manufacture equipment so that it complies with certain "basic requirements" set out in Annex I to the draft proposal. The draft also requires manufacturers to consider the use of the best available technology "where economically feasible and cost effective". The draft, published by the Enterprise Directorate, envisages that manufacturers will be able to self-certify compliance of their products with manufacture and design specifications by drawing up a declaration of conformity.(European Commission, May 2000)


5.20 The results of four studies commissioned by the European Commission on the environmental impacts associated with PVC waste have been published. The studies will be used to influence the content of a Green Paper on PVC currently being drafted by the Commission. The four studies looked at mechanical recycling of PVC, chemical recycling of plastics waste, the behaviour of PVC in landfill and the influence of PVC on flue gas cleaning residues from incineration. The PVC industry has been very proactive in this area and has forwarded to the Commission proposals for a voluntary commitment on sustainable development, hoping that this will avoid new legislation on PVC. Under the voluntary agreement, the industry has agreed to set "meaningful" targets by the end of 2002 for the take-back of waste from processing and installation works for mechanical recycling. By 2005, at least 50% of the "collected available quantity" of pipes and window frames will be recycled. No targets have been set for other products including packaging, cables or flooring.(European Commission, April 2000)