The drive for sustainable growth is evidenced in particular in the waste sector as the government shifts its regulatory focus to the recycling and reuse industry. DEFRA recently confirmed that a mandatory 5p charge on single use plastic carrier bags will be introduced in England. Similar proposals have been rolled out by other regulatory bodies across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Against this background is the recurring theme of the red tape challenge, with ongoing attempts to reduce burdensome regulations, such as reporting requirements in the WEEE regime.
WEEE Regulations – changes from 1 January 2014
EEE producers and retailers will be looking closely at new measures introduced for WEEE that are intended to increase recovery rates. Simpler producer requirements for EU supplies and small suppliers are countered by greater obligations on take-back. For some waste companies, this will require confirmation and adaptation as necessary to ensure their treatment facilities are equipped to deal with more electronic and electrical waste.
An interim guidance on the draft Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013 has been published to help businesses prepare for changes from January 2014. As previously reported the EU recast WEEE Directive has increased the types of EEE products that fall within this regime. At the same time, a simpler compliance scheme will apply to small producers placing less than 5 tonnes of EEE on the market in a compliance period, exempting them from registering with a Producer Compliance Scheme.
Other key changes introduced in the guidance are as follows:
- Authorised representatives. UK producers will be able to place their EEE on the market of other Member States without having to register as producers in that Member State. Instead, they will be able to appoint an authorised representative who will act on their behalf.
- Obligation to take back very small WEEE. Retail shops with EEE sales areas of at least 400m² will be obliged to take-back very small WEEE free of charge. This obligation would apply even when the customers do not make a like-for-like purchase. Alternatively, the draft Regulations provide that distributors who do not join a DTS or provide an in-store take-back facility may use existing collection schemes, provided that these are likely to be at least as effective as an in-store take back scheme.
Further, from 15 August 2018, the categories of EEE will change and all EEE will have to be classified under one of the six categories specified in the Regulations Schedule, instead of the 13 categories that currently exist. All EEE products will be covered by WEEE Regulations, with the exception of those specifically excluded from their scope.
Simplification of Waste Transfer Notes
Businesses and individuals involved in the transfer or handling of waste will be able to choose between the use of Waste Transfer Notes (WTNs) and alternative forms of documentation (such as invoices, orders or receipts) as the Government consults on the simplification of waste transfer notes (WTNs). The proposal, which forms part of the UK Government’s Red Tape Challenge, aims to reduce the administrative burden associated with the production of WTNs. Where businesses decide to continue using WTNs, they will benefit from the new voluntary Electronic Duty of Care system (EDoC), which will be rolled out later this month to allow for an electronic recording of WTNs. It is estimated that the use of the EDoC system will result in savings for businesses of up to £7.8 - £13.4m per annum.
The consultation was held by DEFRA and the Welsh government and closed on 20 January 2014.
EU guidance for waste treatment under review
Best Available Techniques look set to become binding standards in respect of industrial emissions under guidance due to be adopted in 2016. The Industrial pollution guidance for waste treatment plants is being reviewed by the European IPPC Bureau. Changes following the review will affect businesses operating or constructing biological treatment plants with a capacity of 75 tonnes or more per day. The revised guidance will also cover anaerobic digestion facilities with a capacity of 100 tonnes or more per day. This review exercise forms part of a wider process to implement the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which amends emission standards imposed through the permitting regime.
The guidance is due to be adopted in 2016, and forms the reference document (BREF) containing Best Available Techniques (BAT) and associated emission levels applicable to all waste treatment installations. Once the BREF is finalised, BAT conclusions within the document will be the reference point used by national regulators to determine permit conditions. The BREF for waste treatment is targeted at a wide range of treatment standards, including common waste treatments such as the temporary storage of waste, physio-chemical techniques (such as neutralisation, dewatering, chromic acid and cyanide treatments), as well as treatments and recovery of hazardous and non-hazardous waste to produce solid and liquid fuels.
Readers should note that this BREF does not deal with landfills, and forms a separate guidance from the waste incineration BREF.
As part of the review, Member States will submit a list of well-performing treatment plants for data collection by the end of January 2014. The IPPC Bureau will subsequently release detailed surveys. Interested waste operators should keep abreast of the review process as compliance with new emission standards may have future cost implications for existing facilities and new treatment facilities.
Site Waste Management Plans - finally repealed
There are likely to be both winners and losers following the repeal of SWMPs in England. We wait to see what effect, if any, this measure has on recycling and waste rates in the construction sector but there will be businesses who had supplied such services who will now be looking to Wales to replace that lost custom.
After a slight delay, the Regulations repealing Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) in England have been published. During the consultation period which preceded the Regulations, the construction industry appeared rather split on the proposal, with certain companies stating that they will continue to use SWMPs as these have been considered useful. The Government has emphasised that it would encourage industries to continue using SWMPs even after the repeal of the Regulations.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Welsh Government is seeking to introduce SWMPs for all projects (irrespective of their value) that fall within the Building Regulations regime and the planning system. This is just a small indication of the ever growing divergence between the two jurisdictions.
Waste Prevention Programme
Government funding is to be provided as part of a broader drive towards reduced waste creation, greater waste re-use and clarification of the end of waste point. This is likely to lead to further opportunities in the recycling and re-use sector with an element of pump priming for eligible organizations.
The Government has announced plans to provide an additional £800,000 funding for communityled waste prevention schemes in the next two years. DEFRA’s long awaited waste prevention programme for England was launched on 11 December 2013 – in time for the deadline set by the Waste Framework Directive 2008. A key emphasis of the programme is to implement the concept of a circular economy through the waste industry.
The programme encourages businesses to implement innovative ways to prevent waste through a series of funding schemes.
Of particular legal significance is the commitment to work closely with the Environment Agency to clarify the definition of waste to reuse and repair activities. While we have not been given a date for when this might happen, waste companies should note this development on their horizon. DEFRA also indicated plans to develop a standard for reuse through WRAP, as a way to demonstrate that products have been subjected to quality assured process.
Glass recycling – reduced target?
Strong performances against EU recycling obligations are expected to result in a decrease in glass recycling targets to 2017. Such market realignments have the potential to create short term instability but the measure will undoubtedly be welcomed by obligated producers at least.
DEFRA has proposed to lower glass recycling targets to either 75% or 77% with options to maintain the split between remelt and other applications at the same percentages, or to amend the split between remelt and other applications.
The UK introduced a statutory producer responsibility scheme for packaging recycling in 1997 to implement the EU Packaging Directive. It is currently obligatory for businesses with annual turnover above £2m and who handle over 50 tonnes of packaging to recover and recycle 81% of glass packaging they handle, such as jars and bottles. Within this target, businesses must ensure that 63% of their recycling is achieved through remelt applications.
The current target applies from 1 January 2013 for five years. However, following a study published by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Valpak Consulting, trends indicate that the UK is over-achieving against the EU target by 185,000 tonnes of glass packaging (8%).
A consultation on the proposals ended on 17 January 2013. If adopted, obligated producers are expected to benefit from reduced cost associated with Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRNs), as well as from lower collection and sorting costs for recycling.
The first Welsh Environment Bill: waste considerations
Further restrictions on waste disposal activities mark a step change in the waste collection, treatment and disposal regime in Wales.
The first Welsh Environment Bill will introduce a range of reforms to the waste regime. The Bill seeks to impose a new duty on all waste producers (except householders) to present their recyclable waste for separate collection, while new bans will restrict recyclable material from going to landfill. Other key proposals introduced are as follows:
- Extension of the separate collection duty. Under the current system, businesses which collect waste paper, metal, plastic or glass and waste collection authorities making arrangements for such collection must take all necessary measures to ensure separate collection of these materials from 1 January 2015.Under the proposals, this duty will be extended to cover a wider range of materials, including card, wood and food waste. If adopted, businesses will have until 1 January 2017 to comply with the new measures.
- Certain material would be banned from “Energy from Waste” (EfW) facilities (excluding anaerobic digestion facilities). Materials that could be prohibited include: uncontaminated paper and card, untreated wood, glass, metal, plastic and food waste. Both operators of EfW facilities and those responsible for sending waste to these facilities will be required to comply with the ban. If adopted, this proposal would not take effect before January 2017.
- Disposal of food waste to sewers to be prohibited. Food waste from business premises will be prohibited from entering the public sewerage system.
The Bill highlights the Government’s intention to improve the management of natural resources in Wales, and is expected to have wide-ranging implications for any business operating in the waste industry. Interested parties were recently invited to comment on the Bill in a public consultation which ran until15 January 2014.