This Alert contains brief details of recent Government and EU publications, legislation, cases and other developments in England and Wales relevant to those interested in municipal waste management, which have been published in the past month. 

Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet. All links are correct at the date of publication.

If you have been forwarded this update by a colleague and would like to receive it direct please email Claire Booth.

The following topics are covered in this update:

   Classification of Waste    Municipal Waste
   Enforcement    Procurement
   Environmental Information    Wales
   Hazardous Substances    Waste Strategy


Classification of Waste

DEFRA: Consultation on the legal definition of waste and its application: seeks views on draft guidance that aims to help businesses and other organisations decide whether a substance has been discarded as waste and so falls within the Waste Framework Directive 2006/12, or whether it's been converted or transformed into a new product. The draft guidance is in three parts: 

  • Part 1: practical guide for businesses and other organisations; 
  • Part 2: explains the background to and the rationale for the draft guidance; and 
  • Part 3: detailed guidance on the case law on the definition of waste and is intended for those with a specialist interest in the issue.

It includes a summary of the relevant EU case law on the definition of waste and the text of the EC's 2007 Communication on the Interpretative Communication on Waste and By-products. Note that this guidance focuses on the distinction between waste and non-waste. It does not deal with the definition of municipal waste or other waste streams. It does not change the legal definition of waste nor take precedence over EU case law. The consultation closes on 12 April 2010. The finalised guidance will be published in early July 2010. (18 January 2010)

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LGO / PHSO: Environmentally unfriendly - a report of a joint investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman:  the two Ombudsmen have recommended that the Environment Agency, Lancashire CC and Rossendale BC pay £95,000 in compensation to Mrs D and her son for the years of extreme distress, aggravation and financial loss suffered after the three public bodies failed to stop a neighbour from using his land as an illegal landfill site. Mrs D and her son lived in a green belt area noted for its biological and archaeological heritage. From 2000-2007 thousands of tonnes of rubbish were illegally dumped, burned and processed on farmland a few metres from Mrs D’s home, enough to fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools. Their complaints about the damage the waste was causing to the environment and their property went unchecked for seven years. The Ombudsmen found that the three public bodies had failed to work together despite the existence of a national protocol which clearly required a coordinated joint approach on waste enforcement. (20 January 2010) 

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Environmental Information

Cabinet Office: Government launches one-stop shop for data: announces the launch of the data.gov.uk website that contains more than 2500 sets of data from across government with a new, open licence, which allows the data to be freely reused by anybody. All of the data is non-personal and in a format that can be reused by any individual or business to create innovative new software tools, such as applications about house prices, local amenities and services, or access to local hospitals. (20 January 2010) 

Office of Communications v Information Commissioner [2010] UKSC 3 (Sup Ct): this appeal concerned the correct approach in law to a request for environmental information when the public authority holding the information relied upon more than one of the exceptions to the duty to disclose such information. The court held that the question was one of general principle, on which the courts below had expressed, and different members of the Supreme Court held, different views. It has therefore referred to the ECJ the question: Under the Access to Environmental Information Directive 2003/4, where a public authority holds environmental information, disclosure of which would have some adverse effects on the separate interests served by more than one exception (in this case, the interests of public security served by art.4(2(b) and those of intellectual property rights served by art.4(2)(e)), but it would not do so, in the case of either exception viewed separately, to any extent sufficient to outweigh the public interest in disclosure, does the Directive require a further exercise involving the cumulation of the separate interests served by the two exceptions and their weighing together against the public interest in disclosure? (27 January 2010)

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Hazardous Substances

DBIS: RoHS Regulations – Government guidance notes: updated guidance on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/37) for all businesses and individuals placing electrical and electronic equipment on the UK market. The Regulations ban the putting on the UK market of new Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) containing more than the permitted levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and both polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants from 1 July 2006, with a number of exempted applications. The guidance explains the requirements of the relevant legislation and includes a decision tree and flow chart. (25 January 2010) 

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Mayor of London: London’s wasted resource – the Mayor’s draft municipal waste strategy: sets out the Mayor’s draft proposals for a raft of measures to: work with the boroughs to boost London's recycling rates, embrace less polluting waste technologies, make more money from waste, ensure streets are cleaner ahead of 2012, and save up to £90m per year by, for example, sending no rubbish to landfill, recycling as much as possible, and extracting energy from what is left over. The Mayor’s target is that by 2015, the capital will be recycling at least 45 per cent of its municipal waste rising to 60 per cent by 2031, sending zero municipal waste to landfill by 2025. With landfill rates set to increase from current associated costs of around £245m to £307m by 2013, these proposals seek to help boroughs to minimise pressure on future council tax bills. Comments on the initial six key policy areas are required by 15 March 2010. A second draft of the strategy will be published for public consultation in the summer, and the final Strategy will be published in late 2010/early 2011. (18 January 2010)

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Municipal Waste

DEFRA:  Municipal waste composition - review of municipal waste component analyses (WR0119): summarises the results of a study that aimed to enhance understanding of the current knowledge of the composition of municipal waste, and to inform the needs for further research and detail how these needs may be met. This was achieved by reviewing the results from municipal waste compositional surveys undertaken over the past four years in the UK and Europe, bringing these results together where possible to increase their applicability and identifying the areas where information is missing. This web page links to the full report and the annexes. (21 January 2010)

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HSE: Waste services – LA procurement and management guidance: HSE has published an online guide to help local authorities understand the importance of a sensible approach to health and safety when it comes to procuring and managing waste and recycling services. It gives practical information on how to make health and safety an integral part of the procurement and contract management process, whether waste services are provided in-house or contracted out. (19 January 2010) 

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Welsh Assembly Government: Municipal waste management report for Wales, 2008-09 – revised: this Statistical Bulletin presents summary results for municipal waste management in Wales. It includes information about the amount of municipal waste collected from household and non-household sources and the levels of recycling in Wales. The information presented relates to 2008-09, together with figures for previous years. (21 January 2010) 

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Waste Strategy

HC Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee: Waste Strategy for England 2007: this report scrutinises the Government's Waste Strategy. It criticises DEFRA for focusing disproportionately on domestic waste, which contributes less than 10% of all waste, while omitting firm targets for the commercial and industrial sectors which produce around a quarter of all waste. The report praises householders for increasing their recycling levels to nearly 37% and urges the Government to set tougher recycling targets of 50% by 2015 and 60% by 2020. It states that local authorities should be required to provide all householders with information each year on what it costs to collect and dispose of each bin, bag or wheelie bin of waste and what happens to the waste they put out for recycling. DEFRA needs to be more supportive of local authorities’ work to help residents manage their waste, in particular it should explain how it will introduce a more rational regime for charging for domestic waste. The role of PFI in funding infrastructure development must be reviewed since it can restrict local authorities’ ability to respond to changes in technologies and waste collection systems. The Government should address delays in the planning system for new facilities and extend the escalator for landfill tax levels to 2020 to give certainty to those investing in long-term projects. The Committee makes a number of recommendations. (19 January 2010)
We have produced a Waste Alert that summarises the key findings of the report: Commons Committee calls for tougher targets.

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