What you need to know about waste management to ensure your business doesn’t fall foul of the law

Submitted by Amelia O'Hanlon | 27/01/2022

The waste management sector is often associated with strict regulations, policy and compliance procedures, which can make actively engaging with waste management seem daunting. In this article Head of Vertas Environmental, Mark Horner, takes a closer look at the current regulations around waste management and outlines how businesses can protect themselves from falling foul of the law.

Waste management policy within the UK is created by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). These policies are enforced by the Environment Agency (EA) in England and Wales and by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland.

In terms of official support with compliance to these policies, options could be considered limited. For those who wish to, they can access waste management policies and regulations on the Government websites (England and Wales here, Scotland here). Businesses can also reach out to the EA and SEPA, however as a matter of course these agencies tend not to give concrete advice to businesses. This situation perpetuates the reputation of waste management as a sometimes challenging area for businesses.

So, what could happen if your business is found to be breaking rules on waste management? Enforcement agencies have the power to question individuals under caution for suspected waste management offences. Punishment for non-compliance can be punitive and include substantial fines or even prison terms.

However, there are some simple steps that businesses can take to protect themselves:

Engage with a reputable waste management provider. A reliable waste management provider will be open to working collaboratively with you to ensure that your waste management processes are compliant, meet your company objectives and are cost effective.

A quick check on the EA or SEPA website will confirm if a waste carrier is licensed and if they have any pending convictions for improper conduct, saving you from future headaches.

At Vertas Environmental we are also huge advocates of working with local SME waste management providers. By their very nature these businesses often have to be agile and adaptable. This means that they are extremely well positioned to create bespoke packages of support that fit the needs of their clients, with waste being dealt with locally, rather than pigeon holing clients into a national (and sometimes international) waste management infrastructure.

A great waste management provider will carry out a business health check, looking at all the waste created by your business as well as the best ways to collect, sort and process the waste, creating a bespoke plan for this. These providers will also ensure that you, their client, understands the waste journey for your business, working with you to guarantee that the processes in place are intuitive and easy for your staff to use.

Ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps and precautions to confirm waste is disposed of correctly. From using a licensed waste carrier to filling out a duty of care note, doing your due diligence will stand you in good stead should your practices ever come into question.

Every type of waste stream has a unique Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) and European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code. This details how it should be disposed of. So, if you are in doubt, work with your waste provider to understand how your waste is classified and how it should be handled.

And finally, collect evidence. Waste management is a very process driven industry and as a result being able to demonstrate that businesses have, to the very best of their ability, done all they can to comply is a big tick in the box. From emails to the EA or SEPA for clarity to waste notices, keeping a log of processes could prove key.

A quality waste management service will be able to record and report your business’ waste, how it is processed and where, ensuring that your business is compliant with waste regulations and you have documentation to support this.

For more information on waste disposal legislation, get in touch.

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