Mandatory recycling procedures for businesses
If encouragement were needed for businesses to recycle their waste, the spiralling costs of waste disposal alone would possibly be enough of an incentive. Landfill tax will increase by 33% on 1 April 2008, and then a further 25% in 2009.
There are now also new regulations, regarding waste, introduced by the Environment Agency, which came into force on 30 October 2007. These regulations are part of the Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002, which in turn are part of the EU Landfill Directive. The Landfill Directive aims to reduce reliance on landfill as a waste management option and to minimise the environmental impact of landfill sites.
The rules are designed to encourage waste recycling and also to reduce the impact of waste when it is sent to a landfill site. The main changes are that liquid waste is now banned from landfill sites, and all other waste must be pre-treated before it can be land-filled.
The new rules affect all 'waste producers', which in effect means any business involved in sending waste to landfill. They do not apply to businesses that do not send waste to landfill but dispose of it in another way, such as incineration.
In some cases, waste is already treated before being sent to landfill, so the new law is already being complied with. Businesses in this position may still want to consider ways that they can possibly recycle more of their waste, particularly in view of the increases in costs arising from landfill tax increases that will come into force on 1 April 2008 and in 2009.
Pre-treatment of waste is defined as 'physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes (including sorting) that change the characteristics of waste in order to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling or enhance recovery'.
This means that separating some of your waste for reuse or recycling is an acceptable form of pre-treatment. If it is already your policy to sort out recyclable materials such as glass and paper, from general waste, the pre-treatment requirements are satisfied and no further action is necessary.
There are some exceptions to the rule because sometimes there is no treatment available that would achieve the objectives. These are very limited and waste would only qualify if it was inert waste for which treatment is not technically feasible, or waste other than inert waste, for which treatment would not reduce its quantity or the hazards it posed.
Businesses do not have to treat their own waste but may use a waste management company to do it for them.
The landfill operator has the legal obligation to ensure that no waste goes into landfill when it has not been pre-treated. However, waste producers already have a 'Duty of Care' to ensure that waste is properly described and only given to an authorised person. From 30 October 2007, when waste is transferred to someone else they should be informed whether the waste has been treated or not. It is good practice to fill out a written declaration and to keep a copy.
Businesses are advised to consider taking some simple steps to comply with the new regulations:
- update the company procedures manual ensuring that recycling procedures are set out
- document the process, handing a written declaration over with the pre-treated waste and keeping a copy
- inform staff what they need to do to help ensure that the regulations are complied with.