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EU Environmental Liability Directive soon to become law

The European Unions Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) will come into force in England from 1 March and will have an impact on waste management activities, according to international law firm Freshfields.

The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations require operators not only to take preventative action to avoid environmental damage occurring in the first place, but also to own up to regulators to having caused environmental damage should it occur.

Freshfields Environmental Planning head Jonathan Isted told MRW: This will affect any operator operating a waste facility and who has discharges from a site. It will affect everyone from landfill site operators down to local small medium enterprises or recycling facilities that deal with construction waste.

It is the first time that there is a positive duty [for waste operators] in the UK to notify regulators if they have caused environmental damage. In the UK this is quite new.

The directive will work in conjunction with existing legislations, like the Pollution Prevention and Control regulation, which is a regulatory regime for controlling pollution from certain industrial activities.

The ELD extends the polluter pays principle and aims to hold those whose activities have caused environmental damage liable for remedying the situation. Under the ELD the onus is placed on operators to:

* take preventative action to avoid environmental damage occurring;
* notify regulators if environmental damage has been caused; and
* make and agree proposals to remediate any environmental damage caused.

Waste management activities that are potentially damaging to the environment fall under the regulations. For example, activities subject to permit or registration under the new Environmental Permitting regime, which include collection, transport, recovery and disposal of waste and hazardous waste.

It covers certain damage to protected species, natural habitats and sites of special scientific interest, water and land.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that the transposition of the ELD is likely to give rise to around 40 incidents in the UK per year and cost business £14 million per annum. The waste sector will face 17% of this cost compared to 12% in the water sector and 11% in manufacturing.

Isted said: It is important for industry, to firstly, familiarise themselves with the new rules and secondly to assess the risk of their particular business and how it may trigger the new rules. Thirdly, businesses have to review existing procedures and report on environmental discharges.


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