Agency launches electronic WTN system

29th January 2014

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  • Pollution & Waste Management


Anthony Armitage

The new edoc system enables organisations to complete, send and store waste transfer notes online and could save UK firms £8.7 million a year, says government

Developed by the Environment Agency in consultation with the devolved governments and 150 businesses, edoc (electronic duty of care) has been designed to make recording waste movements quicker, easier and cheaper.

Under UK law, organisations moving waste are required to complete a waste transfer note (WTN) and keep it for two years. Currently the systems sees more than 23 million paper WTNs created each year, and Defra estimates that if firms switched to edoc, they would save around £8.7 million each year.

Based on the existing paper WTN, edoc enables organisations based anywhere in the UK to create and send WTNs electronically, and save them in a secure online database, rather than store the paper copies. It automatically accounts for differences in devolved administrations, and offers organisations complete control over who has authority to create and send WTNs.

In addition to speeding up the process of sending WTNs, the system has been designed to improve the quality of WTNs and make the retrieval of notes much simpler, according to Chris Deed, edoc programme manager at the Environment Agency.

"Currently WTNs do not have a great level of accuracy associated with them, partly because they are paper based. One of the huge benefits of edoc is that it will stop people from inputting many of the simple errors that occur now," Deed told the environmentalist.

"edoc improves the accuracy and the legal compliance of the WTN and, with many big companies interested in being able to audit their waste data, an electronic system provides huge benefits over having to scrabble around offices looking for a particular WTN."

edoc provides users with a log of all edoc activities, providing further accountability, and also enables them to run reports on waste movements in their business, based on the data inputted into WTNs, as well as access anonymised data on waste flows across the UK.

The anonymised data from edoc users will also be used by the government and the Environment Agency to better understand waste arisings and movements across the UK.

"There is a need for much better information on waste flows in the UK in terms of how much waste is produced, where is it produced and how is it managed," commented Deed. "One of the greatest benefits of edoc is that it can provide that overall picture, and that's good for businesses too because it allows authorities to get a better handle on infrastructure needs, for example."

While regulators and local authorities are able to use edoc to issue requests for copies of WTNs for enforcement purposes, they are not able to access any WTNs without registered users' permission.

"The feedback that we had from business when designing edoc was that they didn't want regulators to have any rights beyond what exists with the paper system," confirmed Deed. "So edoc mirrors the existing legal position."

According to the Environment Agency, several of the UK's largest waste management businesses, as well as waste producers such as Marks & Spencer and construction firm Morgan Sindall, are among those already considering switching to edoc.

"We're really encouraged by the response we've had to edoc so far," said Deed. "It's not a mandatory system, but the level of interest shows that businesses want to use it. We believe edoc will become the default option for most companies, and has the potential to move 80% of waste transfer records online over time."

The launch of edoc was welcomed by the Environmental Services Association, which represents the UK's waste sector, as offering "real benefits" to waste managers.

"edoc will transform the way businesses record what happens to the waste they produce or handle by reducing administrative costs and burden and improving data quality, as well as reducing the ability to falsify paperwork and increasing controls to discourage illegal waste management," commented Barry Dennis, director general at ESA.

"We therefore urge every UK business that produces or handles business waste to adopt the online system."

To read a full Q&A with Chris Deed on edoc click here

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