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.