What are your duty of care responsibilities in waste management?

I have observed a concerning trend among waste producers and holders who are potentially failing to fulfil their duty of care by properly managing their waste. By doing so, they are setting themselves up for potential legal trouble. This neglect not only poses environmental risks but also legal liabilities for the parties involved.

It is not always enough to simply transfer waste to a registered carrier or authorised site and assume compliance. There is a higher responsibility to prevent breaches by others in the waste management chain. This involves not only knowing who is handling your waste but also understanding how and where it is processed.

The greatest risk often lies in sending waste to exempt sites, which can be de-registered at any moment by the Environment Agency (EA) or Natural Resources Wales (NRW). The unpredictable nature of these sites makes them a risky option for waste disposal.

Should that occur, your waste may end up at an illegal and abandoned site, potentially putting you at severe risk of non-compliance and legal issues. This situation can lead to significant fines and damage to your reputation.

To ensure you mitigate these risks, it is imperative that you only transfer waste to a registered carrier (check on the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) register and be wise to fraudulent credentials). This step is crucial in verifying the legitimacy and compliance of the waste handlers.

If the relevant authorities permit the site, it is crucial to confirm that the permit is listed on the DEFRA Public Register and the site is authorised to accept the waste. This involves doing your due diligence to ensure that the site’s operations are fully compliant with legal requirements.

If the site is exempt, even if registered, an immediate red flag should be raised. Exempt sites often operate under less stringent regulations, which can pose additional risks.

While the waste you are sending may comply with exemption rules, it is important to recognise that these rules are restrictive, and that waste types and quantities are limited. The limited scope of these exemptions means that not all types of waste can be processed legally at these sites.

The rules are often disregarded or abused by operators who lack technical competency or regulation, as should be the case (one would hope) with a permitted site. This lack of oversight can lead to serious environmental and legal repercussions.

To safeguard against any potential repercussions, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure proper waste management. This includes regularly reviewing your waste management practices and staying updated with the latest regulations.

By being diligent and proactive in your duty of care, you can confidently navigate the complexities and pitfalls of waste disposal, ensuring compliance and preventing any adverse consequences. Effective waste management not only protects the environment but also safeguards your business against legal issues.

No one wants a knock on the door from the regulator, or to discover that the waste you paid to be properly disposed of has been abandoned. Staying vigilant and proactive in your waste management practices is the best way to avoid such undesirable outcomes.

If you do find yourself in hot water with regards to Environmental Law, we can help you. Please get in touch.