Reminder : updated Blog Posts

I updated the Waste (EU) post with an important change. The Waste (UK) post is also updated.

Please make sure to note when I write within a post, that I will update that post.

Post updates are not notified by email, and I don’t issue posts notifying which posts I updated. So keep a record to check the post that’s of interest itself on the platform.

Waste Crime (UK – E&W)

DEFRA is conducting a consultation on proposals to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector, and introduce a new fixed penalty for the householder waste duty of care. The consultation closes on 26th March 2018, and applies to England and Wales. The consultation document is here.

One part of this consultation proposes changes to the waste exemption regime (set out in Schedule 3 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (as amended)).

Waste exemptions are exemptions from the need for an environmental permit for waste recovery and disposal operations. Since exemptions were first introduced in 1994, the government has made extensive use of them (within the EU rules) to provide a light-touch form of regulation for small-scale, low risk waste management activities.

In England and Wales, there are 59 types of exempt waste operations available for the use (U), treatment (T), storage (S) and disposal (D) of waste. Similar provisions exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland (but note the exact exemptions are different).

Apart from exemption T11 for the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), it is free to register one or more exemptions at a site. The registration is valid for three years and then automatically expires, and can be re-registered or “renewed” for another three years. Each exemption has conditions setting out the types and quantities of waste that can be managed. The conditions also set out what treatments can be carried out, how the waste must be stored, and which environmental protection measures must be complied with.

Registering an exemption is not the same as applying for and receiving an environmental permit. A permit amounts to “permission” from the regulators to carry a set of particular activities. In contrast, by registering an exemption, the establishment or undertaking is self- certifying that they have read and understood the conditions of the exempt activity and will comply with them. At the point of registration, the regulators do not assess whether the criteria defined in the exemption are met.

The proposals set out for consultation focus on four areas: (pages 40 to 67 of the consultant document)

1. Prohibiting the use of waste exemptions in specified circumstances;

2. Making changes to the ten waste exemptions identified as being associated with the greatest levels of non-compliance and illegality;

3. Requiring additional information to support effective regulation of the regime;

4. Improving the process to register or continue an exemption.

Use the resources set out here to respond to this consultation.

Subscribers (England and Wales) to Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists will receive an Email Alert when the EPR changes.

Plastic Strategy (EU)

The EU has adopted today (16th January 2018) its first plastic strategy. The press release is here. The Q&A is here.

Next Steps

The new Directive on port reception facilities proposed today will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

Subject to Better Regulation requirements, the Commission will present the proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018.

Stakeholders have until 12 February 2018 to contribute to the ongoing public consultation.

The Commission will launch the work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and prepare guidelines on separate collection and sorting of waste to be issued in 2019.

For the full list of measures and their timeline, see the Annex to the Plastics Strategy here.

A few remarks (in the UK Brexit context)

(1) I posted a few days ago about imminent changes to 6 EU Waste Directives (the EU Circular Economy Package). The new rules will fix a new target of 55% recycling of plastic packaging waste by 2030, set a ban on landfilling separately collected waste and fix stronger arrangements for extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes. It is not announced if the UK will follow this.

(2) The EU Plastic Strategy identifies that by 2030 all plastic packaging should be designed to be recyclable or reusable. To achieve this, the European Commission will work on a revision of the legislative requirements for placing packaging on the market. The revision process will focus on defining the concept of design for recyclability. The goal is to decrease the quantity of waste generated and to avoid that these materials end up as litter, are incinerated or are landfilled where can be recycled. This also includes the issue of over-packaging. It is not announced if the UK will follow this (the commitment in the UK 25-yr environmental plan is to eliminate plastic waste where practicable by 2042).

(3) Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. They end up in the surface waters and the marine environment, either because they are used intentionally in products in order to accomplish a certain function (e.g. microbeads in cosmetics as exfoliating agents) or because they are generated through the breakdown of larger plastic pieces and through the wear and tear of products (e.g. through abrasion of tyres or washing of textiles).

The European Commission has started work to restrict the use of microplastics that are intentionally added in products through the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulation (REACH).

Regarding unintentional release of microplastics, the European Commission is examining options such as labelling, minimum requirements for product design and durability, methods to assess quantities and pathways of microplastics in the environment, funding for targeted research and innovation.

The UK Government has brought in Microbeads Regulations applicable in England. I posted earlier about this, and Email Alerts have been sent (if you did not receive an Email Alert, and need the legislation adding to your EHS Legislation and Law Checklists, please let me know).

(4) The EU Plastic Strategy proposes to look into actions to specifically tackle single-use plastic items and other marine litter, including lost or abandoned fishing gear. Preparatory work has started on a legislative initiative on single-use plastics to be tabled by the European Commission, following the approach already used to tackle light-weight plastic bags.

The results of an ongoing public consultation will help determine the measures to be taken. The UK 25-yr environment plan contains proposals on single-use plastics, but not specifically on fishing gear.

(5) A 2015 amendment of the European Packaging and Packaging Directive mandated Member States to address plastic bag use – see article 4(1a) in the Directive itself here. The UK brought in Legislation in all UK jurisdictions (prior to the 2015 Directive amendment being agreed) and recently signalled it would remove the exemptions that were applied in England.

Note : the provisions of article 8a in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive which relate to the labelling and identification of biodegradable and compostable plastic carrier bags, the implementation period (for Member States) is 18 months from the date of that separate 2017 European instrument.

Waste (EU)

UPDATE : the European Parliament has approved the proposals, the package of changes will now be submitted to the Council for final adoption, and will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal.

The European Parliament approved a slightly different package to the 2015 proposals, details are here.

Background

In 2015 the European Commission proposed revisions to existing EU waste law. Four new revising EU Directives were proposed (known as the Circular Economy Package) :

(1) revision to the EU Waste Directive

(2) revision to the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

(3) revision of the EU Landfill Directive

(4) revision of the EU End-of-life Vehicles Directive, the Batteries and Waste Batteries Directive, and The WEEE Directive.

Key elements of the 2015 waste proposal are:

  • A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A common EU target for recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030;
  • A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10%of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
  • Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling;
  • Simplified and improved definitions and harmonised calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
  • Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis –turning one industry’s by-product into another industry’s raw material;
  • Economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes (eg for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment, vehicles).

Provisional agreement was reached in December 2017 in the final stage of the EU law making process :

* Revised common EU targets for municipal waste recycling – at least 55% by 2025, 60% by 2030, 65% by 2035,

* 10% cap on landfill by 2035,

* provisions for countries to restrict the use of single-use plastics,

* improvements in the traceability of hazardous substances in products and waste,

* decontamination of hazardous waste,

* restrictions on oxo-degradable plastics and planned obsolescence.

The final analysis of the agreed text will take place under the new Bulgarian presidency (that has commenced in January 2018) with a view to confirm the agreement.

After formal approval, the new legislation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading and to the Council for final adoption.

The new laws will come into force in 2018 and will then need to be transposed to into national legislation.

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED WHEN THE AGREED LAW TEXT IS PUBLISHED – the revised EU laws will be loaded into EHS Legislation Registers at that point.

Waste (UK)

UPDATE : DEFRA has announced it will consult on various single-use plastic bans, and on a new deposit returns system (DRS) for single-use drinks containers, including bottles and cans. Information is here.

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On 1st January 2018 China imposed a ban on the import of certain types of waste including mixed paper and post-consumer plastics (plastics thrown away by consumers). In addition, some other types of waste, including all other paper and plastics exports, will have to meet a reduced acceptable contamination level of 0.5% from March 2018.

China’s decision has a global impact, including in the UK. 3.7 million tonnes of plastic waste are created in the UK in a single year. Of that total, the UK exports 0.8 million tonnes to countries around the world, of which 0.4 million tonnes is sent to China (incl. Hong Kong). In comparison, other countries including Germany (0.6 million tonnes), Japan and the US (both 1.5 million tonnes) export more plastic to China for reprocessing than the UK. The UK also exports 3.7 million tonnes of paper waste to China (incl. Hong Kong), out of 9.1 million tonnes of paper waste in total. In comparison, the US exports 12.8 million tonnes of paper waste to China.

Today, the DEFRA Secretary outlined in a Written Statement here, the progress made on this matter.

The statement identifies that the Environment Agency has issued fresh guidance to exporters, stating that any waste which does not meet China’s new criteria will be stopped, in the same way as banned waste going to any other country. If you are exporting waste, please check the guidance you are using. If you wish this guidance to be loaded onto the EHS Legislation Registers, please let me know (it currently is not loaded).

The statement confirms Operators must continue to manage waste on their sites in accordance with the permit conditions issued by the Environment Agency (England), (presumably ditto in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Where export markets or domestic reprocessing are not available, the process chosen to manage waste must be the one that minimises the environmental impact of treatment as fully as possible and follows the waste hierarchy. This requires operators to ensure that where waste cannot be prevented or reused it is recycled where practicable, before considering energy recovery through incineration or the last resort of disposal to landfill.

In July 2017, the DEFRA Secretary announced at the World Wildlife Fund its intention to publish a new Resources and Waste Strategy later in 2018. The Clean Growth Strategy, published on 12 October 2017, set out the ambition for zero avoidable waste by 2050 and announced that changes are being explored to the producer responsibility scheme. An earlier Blog post details the Clean Growth Strategy key elements.

In December 2017, the DEFRA Secretary chaired an industry roundtable on plastics and outlined his four point plan for tackling plastic waste: cutting the total amount of plastic in circulation; reducing the number of different plastics in use; improving the rate of recycling; supporting comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling collections, and making it easier for individuals to know what goes into the recycling bin and what goes into general rubbish.

Other measures (mentioned in this Statement) are :

  1. the existing 5p charge on plastic bags that has taken 9 billion bags out of circulation, reducing usage by 83%,
  2. the ban on the manufacture of personal care products containing plastic microbeads in force tomorrow 9th January 2018 (an earlier Blog post identifies this, and Email Alerts have been sent to subscribers likely to need this legislation – if you have not received this Email Alert and need the legislation, please let me know),
  3. a call for evidence (October 2017) on managing single use drinks containers – DEFRA working group will report to Ministers early in 2018,
  4. work with HMT (Treasury) on a call for evidence in 2018 to seek views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single use plastics waste, and
  5. £3bn committed by 2042 under the Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme to support a range of facilities to keep waste out of landfill and increase recycling levels.

The Statement confirms China’s decision underlines the need for progress in all these areas, specifically waste reduction, and minimising waste export.

The Statement identifies DEFRA will set out further steps in the coming weeks and months to achieve these goals, including in the forthcoming 25 Year Environment Plan.

DEFRA update (UK)

On 1st November, DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove appeared before the UK Environmental Audit Committee hearing (having first appeared before the Lords EU Committee). The recording is here.

(1) Consultation for a new Environmental Regulator would likely take place ahead of the UK’s departure in March 2019.

“The need for a body or bodies has been clearly identified… as a need to safeguard the environment.”

“Outside the EU, the question is what replaces the Commission. How do we have the ECJ’s role replicated? I think that this is an absolutely important question, and my thinking is that we should consult on what type of body would be appropriate to replace the role that the Commission and Court have played.”

“It’s right that… we ensure there is a right balance between ensuring people continue to have recourse to the court through judicial review, but also recognise that you might need an agency, body or commission that has the power to potentially fine or otherwise hold government and public bodies to account.”

“We could have a system in that UK that is stronger and more effective than the EU’s because the Government could be held to account in a way that the EU itself currently cannot.”

(2) Re : DEFRA 25-yr Plan – Defra had initially planned frameworks for two separate 25-year environment and food & farming plans, but there would now be only one document published, which would be released either before Christmas or, at latest, in January 2018. The document would feature new policies in key areas such as recycling and biodiversity. 

The plan could see the UK Government step up its voluntary approach on food waste targets (NB Scotland and NI have specific food waste producer obligations, and Wales prohibits down the drawn disposal of food waste). 

“I am very keen that we should try to reduce food waste at every stage in the cycle”

“Having an ambitious target to reduce avoidable waste is an incredibly useful tool and discipline.”

The plan, which will be open for consultation, would be followed by a command paper on the future shape of agriculture, as a prelude to the agricultural bill expected in early Spring.

(3) Re : China’s ban on 24 grades of waste material imports, due to come into force in January [UK exports around 4.5 million tonnes of waste to China for recycling or recovery.]

“I don’t know what impact it will have.”

“It is a very good question and something to which I’ll be completely honest I have not given sufficient thought.”