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Reflecting on laws to come

The UK is required to implement new legislation to give effect to the revised Waste Framework Directive by 12 December 2010. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Assembly have been involved in a consultation process with businesses in the waste sector, and the second stage of the consultation on the Draft Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 will conclude on 16 September.

Key proposals within the revised WFD include:

  • A legal obligation for those producing waste (other than householders) to deal with their waste in the best way possible for the environment, wherever practical, prioritising actions to prevent waste in the first place; then preparing any waste for reuse; recycling it; using other types of recovery such as energy from waste; and, if all else fails, disposing of it. This ‘waste hierarchy’ is already part of policy in many areas;
  • A statutory target to recycle 50% of waste from households by 2020;
  • A statutory target to recover 70% of construction and demolition waste by 2020. There is an existing joint Government and industry voluntary target to halve construction, demolition and excavation waste disposed of in landfill by 2012 compared with a 2008 baseline;
  • Setting up where practical separate collections for waste paper, metal, plastic and glass by 2015. Separate collections can include commingled waste collection followed by separation at recycling facilities.

The revised WFD also requires the UK to implement a national waste prevention programme which will need to be implemented by the secretary of state for the environment and Welsh ministers by 12 December 2013. The programme needs to include
the main features of the revised WFD and establish a range of waste prevention measures. These will have a widespread effect on many businesses and areas of the public sector in England and Wales.

In addition to the waste prevention programme, the environment secretary and Welsh ministers must ensure that waste management plans encompass the revised WFD’s key policy objectives. It is anticipated by Defra that documents which will constitute waste management plans will include national waste strategies, packaging waste strategies and hazardous waste strategies. These will need to be reviewed to ensure that they implement fully the key policy objectives.

The consultation also includes draft guidance on the practical application of the features of the revised WFD and in particular the waste hierarchy, which is intended to assist businesses and public bodies with their duty of care.

However, the Regulations do not yet make it clear who will be the enforcing authority in respect of implementing civil sanctions for breach of duties under the legislation, for example the duty to provide separate collections of commercial and industrial waste.

It has also been noted that many of the measures contained in the revised WFD are already implemented in the UK to a certain extent - for example only one local authority in England does not already provide for the separate collection of paper, metal and glass and very few have no provisions regarding plastic bottles.

The outcome of this consultation should be of interest to all those involved in the waste sector. It will provide useful guidance on the application of the main features of the revised WFD, as well as setting out the way in which these key features will be implemented into national legislation.
Jeremy Eden is head of the waste, renewable and energy team at EMW Picton Howell
Further information at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/strategy/legislation/wasteframework/index.htm

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