Worrying figures from the Environment Agency reveal that less than a third of businesses know about the new rules for hazardous waste. The figures, published at the end of June, come as the Environment Agency sets out its priorities for enforcing the new rules. Anyone found to be illegally dumping hazardous waste, or trying to pass it off as non-hazardous could face prosecution.

But of 1000 small and medium sized companies in England and Wales quizzed by the Environment Agency, only 28 per cent knew about the new regulations that come into force on 16 July. 'The new rules mean that there will be more businesses producing hazardous waste,' said Liz Parkes, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency.

'We have worked closely with industry, set up workshops and road shows, and published guidance to raise awareness of the changes - so everyone should be aware that these rules are coming in.'

So what do the new regulations mean? Most businesses in England and Wales that produce waste that falls into one of a range of categories defined as 'hazardous' will need to register with the Environment Agency. Failure to do so means that waste carriers will not collect waste from you and ultimately, you could be prosecuted.

Are you three steps from exemption? The new rules on hazardous waste place a legal requirement on business producing hazardous waste to register the production premises with the Environment Agency by 16 July. The rules also contain three conditions which, if fully met, qualify some businesses for an exemption from registration. Is yours one of them? See the Environment Agency's website for more information.