High standards set by Environment Agency for waste duty of care
The Environment Agency is using the waste duty of care as a tool to ensure businesses meet their waste obligations.
The waste duty of care is contained in s34) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It imposes an obligation on those who handle and deal with waste to ensure it is handled and treated in a legally compliant manner. The obligation is to take all reasonable steps, so it is not an absolute duty.
Recent experience has shown that in an effort to crack down on the waste crime epidemic, the Environment Agency (EA) is using the duty as a tool to take enforcement action against all those in the waste chain of responsibility, from producer, to broker, to carrier, to handler etc.
The expectations of the EA in relation to those in the chain are higher now that they have been in the past. The EA are now expecting all those in the chain to be fully aware of the controls that apply to those in the chain, whether it be specific terms of permits, so waste types and tonnages, or the specific terms of exemptions, again waste types and tonnages. The EA is expecting that waste producers for example know and satisfy themselves that a site operating pursuant to an exemption from the requirement for an environmental permit is not breaching the tonnage thresholds in the exemption by checking the volumes of waste at the site and the movements in and out.
It is fair to say the EA has now set the duty of care bar a lot higher. All businesses need to be alive to this to ensure they have audited those companies providing them with waste related services and that these audits are repeated on a regular basis.