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Deal on responsibility

Turning more waste into a resource has been given a formality by the Responsibility Deal, reports Sam Corp, Environmental Services Association head of regulation

The Responsibility Deal between the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Government was signed in June 2011 and contains a number of important commitments for the waste industry, the Government and the Environment Agency.

Under the Deal, the Government will work with the ESA to help turn ever more waste into a resource and help businesses to prevent waste and recycle more of the waste they do produce.

In particular, the Deal will encourage the take-up of recycling services by small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), along with the provision of better information on what SMEs can do to prevent and deal with waste.

Under the Deal, the ESA will also promote good practice in community engagement and encourage its members to work for greater take up of recycling services by SMEs and to do more to promote the waste hierarchy.

The Deal also committed the ESA to develop an industry code of practice to improve the measurement of composition of MRF inputs and outputs. This will help to ensure that recyclable materials continue to be in demand in domestic and overseas markets, and will create incentives to invest in new sorting technologies.

The ESA has submitted its recommendations for the code to the Government. Waste minister Lord Taylor has indicated strong support, and the organisation expects a consultation on implementing the code to take place during the summer.

Clearly, industry cannot do this alone and the Government has also committed to fulfilling important obligations under the Deal such as ensuring that the public sector buys recycled products and encouraging councils to put in place waste and recycling infrastructure more quickly.

Importantly, the Government has recognised the need for a ‘significant’ increase in waste and resource infrastructure in its recent review of national planning policy. The Government is also looking for ways to recognise good performance by waste management companies, in particular by cutting red tape for those who are doing the right thing and by promoting robust, consistent and proportionate enforcement by the Environment Agency (EA). 

The ESA is working with the EA to develop one specific regulation initiative outlined in the Deal: a pilot project to test reliance on the EA’s Environmental Permitting Regulation assurance scheme pilot. This aims to reduce the regulatory burden on operators and to use data that is already collected and verified by other bodies to help the EA achieve its regulatory role.

The EA has accepted a number of ESA members’ sites for inclusion in the project, encompas-sing a broad range of waste activities. The pilot involves two aspects. First, an annual compliance statement relating to a specific site, which is intended to be a public record that the operator’s board is fully aware of the environmental performance of its site. Second, a supplementary compliance module to be added to the site’s existing environmental management system.

The trial will take 12-18 months to complete and involves sites across a broad range of industrial sectors. The results of the trials will feed into the EA charges consultation in 2014 for the scheme to go live (where viable) in April 2015.

The ESA hopes that projects such as these can pave the way for a smarter regulatory regime.

The Responsibility Deal reflects the direction of travel that our sector is going in. ESA members are already investing several billions of pounds to recycle and recover value from more of the UK’s waste, and they believe they can provide solutions to many of the challenges set out in the Government’s waste review.

The Deal shows how we are committed to working with our customers and communities to do just that.

All companies represented on the ESA board of directors have formally committed to the Deal, including all the major players in the sector. We are also encouraging other members to support the Deal - and it is also open to non-ESA members to sign up.

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