More than half of UK businesses fail to comply with waste law

13th April 2016

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The waste industry has joined together to raise awareness of businesses' obligation to ensure their waste is disposed of responsibly after research showed that more than half (56%) of UK firms are in breach of the law.

Duty of care legislation has been in place since 1990 and covers anyone dealing with waste including producers, carriers, dealers and brokers. The environment department (Defra) published a revision of the waste duty of care last month, incorporating changes to legal requirements since the previous version.

The waste industry’s right waste, right place campaign is particularly targeted at SMEs. A survey by waste company Suez found that 94% of non-compliant organisations were SMEs. The waste industry says that lack of compliance has fuelled waste crime, particularly fly tipping.

Defra figures reveal that Incidents of fly tipping numbered 900,000 in 2014/15, an 11% increase on the previous year and which cost local authorities at least £50m to clean up. Commercial waste was the second largest component of fly tipping, and increased 18% between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Mat Crocker, deputy director of waste and illegals at the Environment Agency, said: ‘Criminals are getting rich on exploiting widespread ignorance of the law.’

One-quarter of non-compliant businesses put all their waste in a single bin, according to the Suez poll. Once informed of their obligations, 90% of non-compliant businesses said they were keen to comply. But 11% said difficulty disposing of specific materials was a barrier, while 17% identified cost as an issue.

Sam Corp, head of regulation at waste trade body Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: ‘Very few organisations want to actively flout the law, but most are simply not informed about what they have to do. Unfortunately being uninformed is no protection from the law, and we believe that more companies will find themselves exposed to prosecution unless they take the right steps to comply.’

Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), said: ‘Despite its presence at the heart of this industry for more than a quarter of a century, duty of care is still poorly understood and poorly used by many businesses.’

The industry campaign aimed to fill an information and advice gap alongside the new Defra guidance, he added.

The campaign will raise awareness through social media, trade and sector medial, exhibitions, seminars and industry events. Its website is and can be found on Twitter @RWRP2016 and Facebook.

The campaign is managed by the ESA and is sponsored by the Environment Agency (EA), CIWM and the Environmental Services Association Education Trust (ESAET). It is supported by the Federation of Small Businesses, Build UK, the National Farmers Union, Veolia, Travis Perkins, the United Resource Operators Consortium, SUEZ and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee.


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