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Are businesses ready for the final part of the Landfill Directive?

A waste expert has warned that UK businesses are unaware of new waste treatment law which could make recycling avoidance illegal. It is the final change under the Landfill Directive, which comes into force on October 30 2007. After discussing the regulations with key organisations, financial advisers Grant Thorntons Government and Infrastructure Advisory team said that it was clear that UK businesses were unaware of the changes. Under the Environment Agencys (EA) new rules all businesses will have to treat their non-hazardous waste before disposal and demonstrate this with pre-treatment forms. The company warned that landfill operators will also have to show that any waste they accept from businesses has been treated. Waste can be regarded as treated when all the solid material that can be removed from the waste stream and recycled has been. Grant Thornton director and waste specialist Nigel Mattravers said the majority of UK companies were not prepared for the change, and could incur EA penalties. He added that this was a "slow burner" type of regulation that would gather momentum and that it was a step towards making recycling avoidance illegal. He said: "Over the past 12 months every man and his dog have been making noises about becoming greener, but we have a major piece of legislation coming into force that supports this and it is virtually ignored. However, a spokesman for the EA said: We have written directly to landfill operators, waste management and local councils to inform them of changes and the need to comply. We have also been working with Business Link, trade associations, the British Retail Consortium, the Oil Recycling Association and the Institute of Civil Engineers among others to make sure the relevant businesses were aware. But our main target has been the waste management companies as they will pass this information to their customers. They are also our main focus because we directly regulate them. We also informed anyone that applied for waste related licences or businesses that were renewing licences and sent information about the changes with their new documents. The EA produces guidance on these rules as well as sector specific fact sheets, which have all the information about compliance and are available on the EA website. But Mattravers claimed: It isn't just manufacturers that will now have to treat their own non-hazardous waste before collection; every business in the country, including high street retailers, city offices and country pubs must now produce reports on how they have treated their waste, in accordance with the EAs guidelines. In response to this the EA spokeman claimed: The majority of businesses already separate and recycle waste so they were already complying before the new rules are even in place. Bigger businesses already know about these changes as they have legal teams who keep them up to date. The problem can be contacting small and medium sized businesses but weve covered this issue by contacting trade associations and other relevant organisations, to make sure the message gets across. Commenting on EA enforcement of the rules Mattravers said: "While we won't see the recycling police here any time soon, the regulations will force every business in the UK to think much more seriously about their waste streams and then act." The EA has indicated the policing of these regulations will be from the top down and confirmed that falsified pre-treatment forms could result in prosecutions. The landfill operator may also be prosecuted for not examining the waste properly. But the EA spokesman added: The main thing for the EA when a new rule comes in is to make sure businesses are complying and help them meet the regulations. We will penalise businesses if necessary but at this early stage its not needed. Its more important to ensure that businesses are complying and this is done through monitoring and site inspections. Mattravers added: What is most vague is how heavily these rules will be enforced, and whether the EA is planning to get tougher over time. It may be that landfills are left with much of the responsibility, as it is easier to penalise a central operator than try and go after individual waste producers. But the EA spokesman said: We will monitor landfill operators but this is because they have a responsibility to ensure that the waste has been treated. If the EA comes across non-compliance they will of course look into it. Tougher actions would be considered on a case by case basis and could include licence suspensions and fines if necessary in the future. However, we dont want to take the enforcement route, wed rather businesses complied. Mattravers said: Whatever the enforcement system, it is clear that UK businesses must start preparing for the changes now. More information and pre-treatment forms are available on the Environment Agency website http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/landfilldirective

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