Your legal queries answered

What is the purpose and effect of the new Waste Management Regulations, and do they repeal and replace the 1994 Waste Management Licensing Regulations ?

The background to the Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 is a 2004 ECJ ruling that the exclusion of certain wastes from the s75 Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990) definition of ‘controlled waste’ was contrary to the requirements of the 1975 Waste Framework Directive and the 1999 Landfill Directive.

One of the main impacts is to extend existing controls to other specific wastes namely, farm waste and non-mineral wastes from mines and quarries. The new regulations came into force on 15 May 2006 and apply to England and Wales only. They do not repeal or replace the 1994 licensing regulations. Similar legislation is already in force in Scotland while Northern Ireland has plans to introduce the new requirements later this year.

In relation to agricultural wastes, farmers face an immediate prohibition on use of on-site tips, dumps or deposits of agricultural wastes in accordance with s33(1)(c) of the EPA 1990. Similarly the s34 EPA 1990 duty of care obligations in relation to the storage, handling and transport of agricultural or farm waste have immediate effect.

However, the regulations contain transitional provisions which allow farmers until 15 November 2006 to register with the Environment Agency (EA) to transport agricultural waste on a professional basis or as a dealer or broker; and until 15 May 2007 to apply to the EA for waste management licences, to dispose of or recover agricultural waste on-farm, or to register licensing exemptions. DEFRA plans to consult on a wider range of exemptions for farm waste during the period to 15 May 2007.

In addition to the above, the new regulations introduce various additional amends to the rules governing the licensing and control of household wastes by householders as well as the transport and duty of care provisions in relation to animal by-products.

It remains to be seen what the impact in practice of the new regulations will be and/or whether farming and mining/quarrying undertakings will change their current practices. While the impact on the mining/quarrying industry is thought to be minimal as much of their waste is currently handled by commercial waste management companies, the changes for farmers could lead to more surreptitious ways of disguising on site waste tips or indeed encourage greater flytipping.

Will the introduction of a new waste treatment licensing regime for site remediation projects impact on local authority functions?

Modern site remediation projects often use mobile treatment equipment for in-situ remediation of contaminated soils and groundwater. This April the Environment Agency (EA) introduced a streamlined system for licensing this technology.

The only real impact on LA functions will be a potential impact for LA planning officers when considering (if they are to be so detailed) what technologies may be permitted on a site to satisfy an agreed remediation strategy and conditions.

The rules are aimed at addressing criticisms that the former permitting system supervised by the EA was complex, inflexible, costly and took too long leading to delay in site remediation and consequently leading to protracted development programmes. Delivery of remediation projects and therefore redevelopment should now be speeded up.

The changes comprise replacing the need for a site specific permit for the use of mobile technology on each occasion when the operator wished to deploy it. Instead there will be a single mobile treatment licence which will cover a series of mobile treatment plant working singly, or in combination, at different sites (ie so that site specific working plans will no longer be required).

The EA will establish a network of account managers to ensure the same rules apply throughout the country and speed up the processing of applications.

  • This column does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken before acting on any of the topics covered

Paul Rice heads up the environmental practice of Pinsent Masons, a firm which has 25 lawyers in its waste manage-ment team

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie