Waste segregation management is an essential part of the manufacturing process as it plays a crucial role in protecting our environment and preserving our resources – failure to comply with legislation could see a manufacturer fined and even its owners prosecuted.
Maintaining compliance and keeping up to date with changing waste legislation can be time consuming and complex, involving critical yet complicated regulations on the handling and disposal of universal, special, and hazardous waste, with requirements and legislations constantly evolving and being introduced. To comply with stricter restrictions, rising taxes and firmer rules, it is important for companies to maintain a clear yet comprehensive view of applicable requirements.
The law requires that anyone dealing with waste to:
- keep it safe
- ensure that the waste is dealt with responsibly
- is only passed to authorised businesses.
Why is waste segregation important?
In short, waste segregation is a legal requirement. Under the Waste Regulations 2011, you must segregate paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, and glass at source unless it is technically or economically unfeasible.
Effective segregation at source is critical to its recycling and disposal. Not only is lack of segregation, collection, and transportation of unsegregated mixed waste to the landfills costly, but it also has a negative impact on the environment, with unnecessary waste ending up in already overflowing landfill sites. Separating and treating waste separately can also help to considerably reduce both air and water pollution, which in turn helps to prevent long term health problems caused by hazardous waste.
Duty of Care
This legal responsibility to ensure that you produce and dispose of controlled waste without polluting or harming the environment is called your Duty of Care – you are specifically responsible for your waste from when you produce it until you have transferred it to an authorised person.
If you are responsible for importing, producing, transporting, storing, treating, or disposing of waste or you are a broker or dealer in control of certain waste in England or Wales then the Duty of Care legislation affects you. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has published its own Duty of Care guidance notes.
Duty of Care responsibilities:
- prevent unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment, or disposal of waste.
- prevent a breach (failure) by any other person to meet the requirement to have an environmental permit, or a breach of a permit condition.
- ensure the waste doesn’t escape from your control.
- ensure that any person you transfer the waste to has the correct authorisation.
- provide an accurate description of the waste when it is transferred to another person.
- Whilst the Duty of Care applies to householders, most household waste is disposed of through local authority waste collection services. Therefore, the householders’ responsibility under the Duty of Care is less than other waste producers.
Householder waste segregation:
For householders this is normally a simple matter of ensuring that their waste is separated into recyclables, food waste (where the service is available) and general waste which is collected by their local authority. For non-routine waste disposal requirements, the homeowner is responsible for ensuring any collection or disposal service complies with waste regulations.
Business waste segregation:
It becomes more complex for businesses because of the diverse nature of wastes produced and differing storage and collection procedures. Consequently, it is important that businesses understand and comply with the following obligations, if you:
- use a waste dealer or broker, you each have a responsibility to comply with your Duty of Care obligations and to ensure that the waste is only transferred to an authorised person.
- transfer waste to a waste treatment facility for preliminary treatment, you will generally still be responsible for the complete recovery or disposal operation (in accordance with Article 15(2) of the Waste Framework Directive).
- carry out a waste operation that changes the nature or composition of the waste, you are regarded as a producer of the waste when it leaves your site.
It is important to note that your duty does not end when you hand over the waste to the next holder but extends along the entire chain of management of your waste. Businesses and householders must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their waste completes its journey to treatment or recovery.
If you think that your waste is not being managed correctly you must take action to check and prevent this. For more guidance you can contact us or read the document published by DEFRA: Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice.
Hazard waste segregation
Hazardous waste is defined as any waste that could potentially be harmful to humans or the environment. Examples of hazardous waste include asbestos, batteries, oils (except edible ones), solvents (often used in cleaning), pesticides, and chemicals such as brake fluid or printer toner.
In addition to your responsibilities detailed in the Duty of Care, you must also meet extra requirements depending on whether you are a:
- waste producer or holder
- waste carrier
- consignee (waste processor)
Business hazardous waste:
For businesses in England, any hazardous waste produced as a result of their operations or handled in the process must cause no harm or damage to anyone or the environment.
Therefore, businesses that produce, stores, or have hazardous waste removed from their sites must take the following steps:
- Classify your waste to check if it’s hazardous.
- Separate and store hazardous waste safely.
- Use authorised businesses with appropriate environmental permits to collect, recycle or dispose of your hazardous waste.
- Complete relevant paperwork.
Waste carrier requirements:
Waste carriers, such as ourselves, that collect and transport hazardous waste also have defined responsibilities:
- All waste carriers must register with the Environment Agency.
- Check the Hazardous Waste Consignment Note is completed correctly.
- Safely transport the waste using ADR trained drivers and compliant vehicles.
- Take the waste to an authorised waste site.
Consignee or Waste Processors responsibilities:
- Register to dispose of waste – environmental permit or hold an appropriate exemption.
- Check the consignment note.
- Ensure compliant waste treatment.
Mixing hazard waste
It is against the law to mix hazardous waste knowingly or unknowingly with either non-hazardous or other hazardous waste. If you do wish to mix hazardous waste, it must be specifically authorised by your environmental permit and be the best available technique.
You must not mix:
- a hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste
- a hazardous waste with a non-waste
- different types (categories) of hazardous waste with each other
- waste oils with different characteristics.
Waste segregation non-compliance
Keeping on top of the relevant legislations surrounding waste segregation is difficult, but cost of failing to comply with any legislations can be steep.
It is a criminal offence if you do not take all reasonable measures available to you to meet your duty of care. You have a legal obligation to correctly describe waste as it leaves your site using the correct waste transfer documentation. If you are caught incorrectly describing your waste, your waste contractor could refuse the waste, or you could be charged more for them to deal with it, and you could face prosecution and, on conviction, a fine and criminal record.
If the Environment Agency uncover actions that are potentially damaging to the environment, they will generally offer advice and guidance in the first instance. However, if this doesn’t work, or if the agency deems that it won’t be effective, it will consider imposing civil or criminal sanctions. The Health and Safety Executive can also take action in cases related to mishandling of waste. When an incident is reported the executive will usually carry out an investigation and may then:
- serve a notice
- withdraw approval
- vary a licence, conditions, or exemptions
- issue a caution
- or seek prosecution.
Even if you escape prosecution, the media coverage generated is likely to cause serious damage to your company’s reputation, which could in turn affect your chances of winning contracts in the future and may even prompt existing clients to terminate their arrangements with you.
If you suspect that someone is illegally collecting, transporting, storing, or disposing of waste, then under no circumstances should not accept waste or give your waste to them. If you have unknowingly accepted mis-classified waste then you should isolate and report your concerns to the regulator immediately.
The legislation surrounding the management of waste segregation is highly complex, with new regulations coming into force frequently and different laws being applies in different parts of the UK. The costs of non-compliance frequently include financial penalties and custodial sentences, as well as potentially causing damage to your company’s reputation. Guaranteeing compliance across multiple sites can be hugely challenging, and so it is essential to have full confidence in any person or company to whom you entrust the task of managing it.
If you need to talk to an expert about professional waste management and disposal, contact us.