Partner Karen Jones, head of our leading Planning & Environmental law team, looks at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA) Waste and Resources Strategy.
On 18 December 2018 DEFRA published its ‘Waste and Resources Strategy’ for 2018. The strategy sets out how the government proposes to preserve stocks of material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy and to minimise damage caused to the natural environment by reducing and managing waste safely and carefully and by tackling waste crime. The paper states that where existing legislation does not match ambitions the government will bring in new powers to strengthen legislation.
Much has been made of the fact that producers will be forced to pay the full costs of disposal for the packaging that they place on the market and that weekly food waste collections are to be rolled out across the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is also proposed to be a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in place by 2023.
Chapter 4 of the Strategy focuses on waste crime. It proposes a new strategic approach to tackling crime and low levels of performance in the waste sector, concentrating on principles of prevention, detection and deterrence. It is proposed that:
- Duty of care regulations will be reformed and registers will be modernised, simplified and harmonised to make them fit for purpose. A consultation is proposed on measures to be taken.
- Fixed penalty notices for householders who breach their duty of care will be available from 7 January 2019 and guidance has been published for local authorities on the use of FPN.
- The EA will strengthen intelligence sharing between organisations, including the police, local authorities, HMRC and the waste industry.
- Launching a fly tipping tool kit to promote collaborative working
- The ten waste exemptions most identified with illegality will be reformed, to prevent exemptions hiding illegal activity, which will include some being removed altogether such that an environmental permit will be required.
- Considering the case for tax registration status checks for those operating in the waste sector, linked to the licence renewal process for waste carrier, broker and dealer registrations.
- Mandatory digital recording of waste movements will be consulted on.
- A Joint Unit for Waste Crime will be set up, to sit within the EA with input from the waste industry, HMRC and the police. The unit will gather and share information relating to waste crime and coordinate a multi-agency response. A dedicated disruption team will be set up that will use intelligence to take quick action against waste criminals on the ground. The progress and success of the Unit will be reviewed after approximately 12 months.
- A consultation will be launched on bolstering the EA’s powers further to ensure that it is equipped to deal with the threat of serious and organised gangs.
- An abandoned sites action plan will be developed to help EA staff detect early signs of a site being abandoned and mitigate risks.
- £10 million provided to the EA in the 2018 Budget will be used to pilot an approach to pay for the landfill tax due from the clearance of certain abandoned waste sites.
- There will be a consultation on a financial provision system, proposing that the waste operator make a payment which can subsequently be drawn down if the operator or owner abandons the site.
- DEFRA will work on steps to strengthen sentences, particularly in the Magistrates’ Courts where most fly tipping cases are heard.
- The way in which the EA is resourced to tackle waste crime will be explored, including the proposal that a proportion of Landfill Tax receipts be committed to the EA for the purpose of combating waste crime.
Waste crime costs the economy hundreds of millions of pounds every year, irrespective of the social and environmental costs. The government seeks to turn the tide on pollution with its new strategy and it is impressive in its comprehensive approach to ensure we maximise the value of resources used and minimise the waste created as well as cutting emissions to help create a cleaner, greener, healthier planet.
This blog article was first published in the Waste Planning Magazine.
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This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.