Legal insight: updates on digital tracking and waste

28th November 2023

Digital tracking, packaging data delays and new collections provide a waste focus for this edition’s environmental round-up by legislation expert Neil Howe

As we head into the parliamentary Christmas recess, there’s been a flurry of notable developments to end 2023, and some to keep an eye on for 2024 and beyond. Everything you need to know is discussed below.

Retained law reclassified

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 comes into force fully at the end of the year, removing the special status given to retained EU laws following Brexit. When the UK withdrew from the EU, it retained the majority of EU laws that directly applied into domestic legislation. This included EU regulations and decisions. However, the government argued that the special status given to retained law made it harder to amend, repeal or replace. The act therefore sets out a revocation or ‘sunsetting’ of specified retained legislation and national legislation derived from the EU, and reclassifies all EU-based laws that have been retained by the UK. They are now to be known as assimilated laws.

Digital waste tracking

Defra has confirmed plans to introduce mandatory digital waste tracking across the UK from April 2025. This will give the government information on where and how waste is created, who is handling it, what is done to it and where it ends up. The UK-wide scheme will also help move towards a circular economy and transform the way environmental regulators monitor compliance, prioritise regulatory activities and help prevent waste crime. Next steps are regulations to set out the exact details and amendments to legislation on the waste duty of care, hazardous waste, transfrontier shipments of waste, waste permitting and licensing. The waste duty of care codes of practice will also be revised.

Packaging reporting deferred

The packaging data reporting requirements and related fees for large producers under the recent Packaging Waste (Data Reporting) Regulations have been delayed by a year. Government talks and pressure from the industry concluded that the delay will help to reduce the impact on inflation, as enforcing this scheme could push up produce prices, which is not desirable in the current economic climate. A new regulatory position statement has been published that will allow large producers to delay the reporting of data without being liable to a fine, as long as they comply with certain conditions.

In court

A director and his waste company that had failed to obtain an environmental permit have been ordered to pay nearly £110,000 following a case brought by the Environment Agency for illegal waste activities.

Lastly, in case law, in ABX Air Inc v Environment Agency, aircraft operator ABX’s appeal against an excessive emissions penalty under the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Order 2020 has been dismissed.


Waste collection reforms

The government has announced reforms to household and business bin collections in a bid to boost recycling rates and move to a “common-sense” approach to recycling. The new plan will mean everyone across England can recycle the same things at home, work, school etc. A timeline for implementation has been set out and includes revised waste collections.

Vehicle emissions

The Draft Vehicle Emissions Trading Schemes Order 2023 aims to establish four new trading schemes, which limit CO2 emissions resulting from the registration of new cars and light commercial vehicles (vans). They will contribute to the UK’s emissions reduction targets and net-zero goal, and form part of the transition to zero-emission vehicles that is underpinned by the commitment to end the sale of new non-zero-emission cars and vans in 2035.

Wet wipe ban

Defra has consulted on a proposed ban on the manufacture, supply and sale of wet wipes that contain plastic, in a bid to tackle plastic pollution and clean up waterways. Wet wipes containing plastic break down into microplastics over time, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. Banning them would help alleviate this issue, and reduce the volume of microplastics entering wastewater treatment plants when wrongly flushed.


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