From today (April 6), the Environment Agency will become one of the first regulators to be given greater flexibility to enforce environmental law, such as the Hazardous Waste, Packaging and Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations under the Environmental Civil Sanctions Order 2010.
Any firm found breaking the above law could be subject to a new regime of civil, as opposed to, criminal fines and penalties.
Pinsent Masons planning and environmental senior associate Simon Colvin said that there was awareness of the new law among large waste firms but not small ones. He said the EA had recently held some workshops on the Environmental Civil Sanctions Order 2010 to raise awareness among businesses in the waste sector.
However, he added: It is not until a prosecution happens that people will sit up and take notice.
Colvin said that waste firms had to keep up-to-date with a lot of regulations and sometimes this resulted in a reactive rather than proactive reaction to the regulations.
He warned industry to keep-up-to-date with the regulations in order to avoid hefty fines up to £250,000 for environmental breaches.
The new powers will not replace the EAs approach of using advice and guidance and are expected to be used sparingly. The EA will still take criminal cases against businesses and individuals that cause deliberate, reckless and environmental damage.
More penalties can be imposed directly by the EA, rather than being imposed by the courts, and according to Colvin, this may mean an increased frequency of enforcement action against business than has previously been the case.