In just two weeks, on July 16, the long-awaited Hazardous Waste Regulations and their sister legislation, the Waste Acceptance Criteria, will come into play.

While most firms have by now checked their obligations and are ready for the changes, there are still those who will be caught out.

The official definition of exactly what waste is hazardous has been altered to include new materials and items such as fluorescent tubes and computer monitors.

Any site which produces more than 200kg of hazardous waste in a year now needs to be registered with the Environment Agency – those failing to do so will have committed an offence and face fines.

Manufacturing sites must register regardless of the quantity of waste they produce.

“Experience of the Special Waste Regulations since 1996 has enabled us to make improvements, both to streamline the controls in the interests of better regulation but also to ensure that the Hazardous Waste Directive requirements are more effectively implemented, and that the environment is fully safeguarded,” said environment minister Elliot Morley.

The Regulations remove the current need to pre-notify the Environment Agency before hazardous waste can be moved off site, and include a simpler method for tracking wastes once they have been moved.

The old notes have been scrapped but there will be a charge for every consignment sent to landfill.

The aim is to improve the regulation of the hazardous waste chain from source site to waste site.

Mr Morley said: “by providing a streamlined tracking system with site notification, these new regulations will allow the Environment Agency to focus even more on tackling hazardous waste at source, to provide advice and guidance to hazardous waste producers, and target those that do not comply with environmental requirements.

“The changes to the system will enable the agency to deploy staff from administrative duties to enforcement in the field.”

Timed to coincide with the arrival of the new regulations, Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) will come into force.

Hazardous waste producers will have to make sure that waste to landfill meets the WAC. It is therefore essential that businesses can describe exactly what their waste contains.

The characterisation process is likely to be the biggest sting to the pockets of smaller companies, as several samples of their waste will need to be sent off for laboratory analyses and then regular checks that the make up of the waste has not significantly changed will also need to be carried out.

Concerns have been raised that this will be a costly process difficult to absorb for smaller manufacturers but Government argues it is necessary in order to determine what can be done to minimise waste, ease its recovery or ensure its safe disposal.

The authorities have acknowledged the confusion the changes might create and have set up a dedicated hazardous waste website, as well as advice to small businesses on regulations likely to effect them.

The Environment Agency believes that less than a third of all small and medium businesses are aware of how the new rules will apply to them.

The agency carried out a survey quizzing 1,000 companies and found that just 28% knew about the regulations.

Liz Parkes, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “The new rules will mean that there will be more businesses producing hazardous waste.

“These results show that many are not aware that their waste is hazardous and must be managed very carefully.

“We have worked closely with industry, set up workshops and roadshows and published guidance to raise awareness of the changes so everyone should be aware that these rules are coming.

“Anyone who wants more information can call our helpline or log onto our website.

“With regards to enforcement, we will be targeting our routine checks where we can have the greatest impact.

“We will continue to come down hard on anyone that knowingly flouts the rules.”

By Sam Bond

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