Agency launches electronic WTN system
- Pollution & Waste Management
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
The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.
In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.
Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.
New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.