Environment Law Update: Access to information 5

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Environment information

The public are to be given a legal right to access information on companies' impacts on the environment. It was thought that this right would not come into force until January 2005 with the Freedom of Information Act. The move is due to be announced by DEFRA in the near future and will implement the provisions of the Aarhus convention relating to access to information. It is also expected to cover health and safety, which broadens the scope of the rules since many industrial projects can potentially affect public health. However, legally classified and commercially confidential information would be excluded.
(The Financial Times 21 May 2002)

Passenger cars

A guidance note on the Passenger Car (Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information) Regulations (SI 2001 No 3523) has been made available for enforcement officers, car dealers and car manufacturers. It deals with a few key issues arising from the new Regulations which came into force on 21 November 2001. These Regulations aim to give consumers more information about the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions characteristics of new cars at the point of sale. The guidance lays out what comprises a model for the purposes of labelling which it says should be a description recognisable to consumers by reference to the way the vehicles are badged and the obvious characteristics of the vehicle. The objective is to allow manufactures to group vehicles of slightly different specifications together under one model to avoid having to display impractically large amounts of data. The guidance also deals with the format of labels, the location and design of posters and displays, and promotional literature.
(DTLR, 9 April 2002)

Waste management

Provisional estimates from DEFRA's latest municipal waste management survey have been released. The results relate to information supplied by the local authorities in England for the financial year 2000-2001. It was estimated that the amount of municipal waste has increased from 24.6 million tonnes in 1996-1997 to 28.2 million tonnes in 2000-2001. Around 6 million tonnes of this waste had been used for recycling, composting or utilised in other schemes such as energy from waste. This compared with just over 3 million tonnes in 1996-1997. The proportion of municipal waste being disposed of in landfill has continued to decline from 84% in 1996-1997 to 78% in 2000-2001. However, the actual amount of this waste disposed of in landfill has increased by 1.5 million compared with 1996-1997.
(DEFRA, 16 April 2002)

European Union

Textile products

Eco-labels are awarded to products possessing characteristics that contribute to improvements in environment protection. Stricter criteria for an EU eco-label for textile products, which are responsible for 37 of the 103 EU eco-label awards made to date, have been announced in the Official Journal. The new requirements extend the coverage to include more fibre types and fibres for outdoor use. The product group now includes clothing and accessoriesand interior textiles, with the exception of wall and floor coverings. The Decision will apply from 1 June 2002 until 31 May 2007, with textiles already having been awarded an eco-label before 1 June 2002 being allowed to use the label until 31 May 2003.
(OJ L 133, 18 May 2002)

Floor coverings

The European Commission has approved a first eco-label to hard floor coverings such as tiles and stone. The flooring label obliges producers to adhere to a set of conditions governing material extraction. It is based on an overall score for nine indicators including the degree of water recycling, visual impact, effect on air and water quality and noise. There are also restrictions on some toxic substances in raw materials, controls on finishing operations and production processes, and energy efficiency requirements. The Decision will apply from 1 April 2002 to until 31 March 2006.
(OJ L 94, 11 April 2002)


A first eco-label has also been approved for televisions. The product group 'televisions' includes all mains powered electronic equipment which is designed to receive, decode and display TV transmission signals, whether analogue or digital, broadcast via satellite, cable or antenna signals and has a screen size of ten inches (25 cm) or more. The criteria takes into account the draft Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Manufacturers must pledge to take back and recycle appliances, which must be 90% recyclable and also energy-efficient. In addition, products must not contain any of a number of flame-retardants listed in the Decision, which will apply from 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2005.
(OJ L 87, 4 April 2002)