Waste sector businesses are cautioning the Government not to sweep aside regulations that prevent environmental crime and protect the public in its latest bid to cut red tape.
The Cutting Red Tape programme was announced on 17 July as a way of saving businesses £10bn during the next five years.
The waste sector is one of five industry areas subject to the review, which will examine “unnecessary regulation and its poor implementation” and “identify unnecessary barriers to growth and productivity”.
But industry figures have questioned the need for the review following the previous Red Tape Challenge, launched in 2011, and the Focus on Enforcement, announced in the 2012 Budget.
Chris Murphy, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, sounded an “early note of caution to the Government”.
He said the review needed to strike a careful balance between protecting the environment and the public, reducing necessary regulation and ensuring the UK moves towards greater waste resource efficiency.
“The review should only seek to lift the burden on those businesses which have and continue to demonstrate that they handle waste responsibly and safely, not provide a loophole for those with poor compliance records or which engage in illegal activities,” he said.
Data reporting, while sometimes seen as onerous, could be useful for infrastructure planning, Murphy added.
The Environmental Services Association believes that regulation supports and drives behaviour, but without consistent enforcement, investment in new services and infrastructure is undermined. Its response will be to highlight a belief that the regulator’s focus too often remains in the wrong areas.
Executive director Jacob Hayler said: “Compliant operators are subject to significant scrutiny, which is funded through permit charges, while the Environment Agency struggles to find the resources from central Government to enforce the regulations at sites which bend the rules.
“Once again the industry will make the case that good performance should lead to a lighter touch approach, while resources for enforcement activity need to be strengthened.”
Suez UK director of external affairs Gev Eduljee said there was a danger that necessary legislation would be “swept aside rather than streamlined”.
For example, regulations around waste storage could be cumbersome but relaxing the rules too much could result in more flytipping, Eduljee warned. “We want good regulations; it’s not a matter of less regulation,” he said.
Bernard Amos, chief executive of Helistrat, said: “The red tape needs to be turned into a ‘more efficient tape’, simpler and more effective. You do need the correct governance in place to in order to ensure that waste is being dealt with in an appropriate legal manner”.
Businesses are being asked for their views in a consultation running until 14 September.
It is seeking evidence of:
- The effect on and costs incurred by small companies of regulation, compliance and enforcement, such as compliance with data requests and preparing for site inspections
- The effect of particular legislation
- The impact of health and safety issues
- The impact of EU obligations, including any issues of competitive advantage compared with operating in other member states
- The effectiveness of regulatory market mechanisms, such as landfill tax and producer responsibility schemes
- Whether regulation, compliance and enforcement act as barriers to entry or innovation in the waste sector
- If guidance produced by regulators and Government departments is useful
- How productivity, commercial and export opportunities are affected
Vicki Hughes, group business development director for Hadfield Wood Recyclers, welcomed the programme. She said: “Regulation within the waste and recycling sector is in desperate need of a review. At the moment there are anomalies between regions as well as rules being implemented that are simply untenable for businesses to operate under.”
But in south Wales, Pulse Plastics consultant Ian Jones said he did not have any problems with Government red tape: “We co-operate with whatever regulations we have. We get a lot more red tape from insurance [companies] than the Government.”
Evidence can be submitted at the Cutting Red Tape website.