The grim record of the waste sector in terms of health and safety was a major theme in news reports in the last quarter of the year.
In four separate prosecutions in which people died at waste facilities, companies were fined considerable sums and some of their directors received suspended prison sentences, recog-nising the consequence and grief caused by their negligence or incompetence.
The cases coincided with an initiative by the Health and Safety Executive to focus on the dangers of machinery and moving vehicles. There were other cases where the regulatory bodies have acted; in one, a crooked boss received the second-highest proceeds of crime order seen in the waste industry, just shy of £2m.
The industry was cheered when Gove set out his aspiration for an independent body with “bite” to oversee environment standards in England – and potentially the other nations – after the UK leaves the EU. A consultation on what powers the statutory body will have is to be launched in 2018.
UK paper and plastic exporters had been striving to get their secondary material through Chinese ports before strict regulations come into force in the new year. But there were rumours coming from China as MRW went to press that the threatened 0.3% contamination level (considered a de facto ban) might be eased to 1%.
Gove admitted to the Environmental Audit Committee that he had “not given sufficient thought” to the effects on the UK of the ban.