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Waste management law
Waste management law seeks to regulate the production, re-use, recycling, recovery and disposal of waste in order to protect human health and the environment.
What is waste?
This is one of the most problematic questions in waste management law. The EC Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) defines waste as “any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard”. Both the European Court of Justice and the domestic courts have provided further guidance on interpreting the definition.
Who regulates waste?
In England and Wales, first tier local authorities where they exist (e.g., city or district councils) are responsible for waste collection and county councils (or unitary authorities where there is no county council) are responsible for waste disposal. The Environment Agency is responsible for applying and enforcing waste management law. In Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is the enforcing authority.
How is waste regulated?
In each area of the UK, it is generally a criminal offence to:
- deposit controlled waste, or knowingly cause or knowingly permit controlled waste to be deposited in or on any land unless a waste management licence authorising the deposit is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence;
- treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste, or knowingly cause or knowingly permit controlled waste to be treated, kept or disposed of in or on any land or by means of any mobile plant except under and in accordance with a waste management licence; or
- treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.
There is also a duty of care, which requires any person in the waste chain from production to disposal to prevent any other person in the chain committing an offence, to prevent the escape of waste from his control, and to ensure that waste is transferred to a properly licensed person.
The main legislation relating to the management of waste includes:
- EC Directive 2008/98/EC on waste
- EC Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste
- Environmental Protection Act 1990, Part II
- Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/894)
- List of Wastes (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/895)
- Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/675)