Waste Watch

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.

30/06/2010

Nadeem Arshad

Nadeem Arshad

Partner

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:

   Biodegradable Waste    Performance
   Commercial Waste    Procurement
   Efficiency    Recycling
   Enforcement    WEEE
   Health and Safety    Waste Minimisation
   Landfill     Waste Strategy
   Litter and Fly-tipping

Biodegradable Waste

European Commission: Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on future steps in bio-waste management in the European Union (COM(2010)235 final): explains the steps considered necessary for optimising the management of bio-waste, which includes garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises as well as comparable waste from food processing plants. It lays out recommendations on the way forward to reap the full benefits of proper bio-waste management, and describes the main potential courses of action at EU and national level and how best to implement them. It calls for the "best use" of existing legislation such as the Waste Framework Directive to maximise the financial and environmental benefits of managing biodegradable waste and for proper application of the revised waste hierarchy with regards the bio-waste stream. The report looks at ways to promote the use of technologies such as composting to tackle biodegradable waste. It strongly endorses the recommendations made by Arts.11 and 22 of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive that member states take steps to encourage the separate collection of the bio-waste stream, emphasising that this maximises the potential for material to be composted or treated using anaerobic digestion. (18 May 2010) 

Environment Agency: Position statement on kitchen waste disposal units (macerators): sets out that the Agency does not support the large scale use of macerators for the purpose of disposing of kitchen wastes, except where sewage infrastructure is specifically designed to manage and recover value from such waste. Its preferred route for food waste is composting by the householder or at a centralised biodegradable waste treatment facility for composting or anaerobic digestion of the waste. It concludes that waste disposal units are not its preferred option but further studies may bring new evidence of their potential beneficial use in certain circumstances. Of significance is the view taken by the sewerage providers that a wide uptake of such units can threaten the sewer infrastructure such that it results in a risk to the environment or health. (31 May 2010)

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Commercial Waste

DEFRA: Survey of commercial and industrial waste arisings 2010: DEFRA is carrying out a national survey of commercial and industrial in order to fill a large gap in its current knowledge of the picture of waste in England. The information collected will feed in to discussions on waste management infrastructure requirements, planning, recycling and waste prevention policy. The survey is being carried out by Jacobs Engineering Ltd in partnership with Halcrow, who will interview 6,000 businesses. The last survey of business waste was undertaken seven years ago by the Environment Agency. DEFRA hopes to publish provisional results in October and a full analysis in December. (27 May 2010)

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Efficiency

WRAP: Local authorities could be missing out on millions in savings, says WRAP chairman at waste conference: reports on a speech given by the  Waste & Resources Action Programme Chairman, Peter Stone, to the FutuResource conference. He highlights how hard-pressed local authorities could save millions through more partnership working in delivering waste services. (16 June 2010)

HM Treasury: Budget 2010: presents the first Budget of the Coalition Government, based on the Government’s stated values of responsibility, freedom and fairness. The Budget shows how the Government will make the tough choices required to tackle Britain’s record deficit.  It sets out a plan to get the public finances back under control, and provides a springboard for a private sector-led recovery with balanced growth across sectors and regions. Statements that particularly affect local government and waste include:

  • the Spending Review, scheduled for 20 October 2010, will set spending plans for the four years to 2014-15. The Spending Review will set Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL) for every department and for the devolved administrations which could see real cuts to departmental budgets of around 25% over the four years;
  • there will be no further cuts in capital spending totals beyond those announced as part of the £6.2bn of savings in 2010-11, in order to protect the most productive public sector investment;
  • the Government will work in partnership with local authorities in England to freeze council tax in 2011-12. The Government will clarify the terms under which local authorities that commit to freeze or reduce their council tax will be compensated; 
  • to ensure the fiscal risks around local authority borrowing decisions are better understood, the Government will monitor lending from the Public Works Loans Board more closely, and consider the approach taken in Scotland to increase transparency around borrowing undertaken more than two years in advance of expenditure;
  • VAT rate increased to 20% from 4 January 2011;
  • a two year freeze in public sector pay, except for those earning less than £21,000 p.a.;
  • increase in the standard rate of landfill tax by £8 per tonne each year from 1 April 2011 until at least 2014. There will be a floor under the standard rate at £80 per tonne, so that the rate will not fall below £80 per tonne from April 2014 until at least 2020; 
  • increase in aggregates levy to £2.10 per tonne in 2011; and 
  • new qualifying criteria for lower rated wastes will be legislated in the Finance Bill, to come into effect on 1 April 2011.

See also the LGA's Budget - on the day briefing. (22 June 2010)

HM Government: Public sector spending challenge: as part of the Spending Review set out in the Budget, the Government has launched a ‘Spending Challenge’ aimed at engaging the country in thinking about public services and how they are provided. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have written to public sector workers asking for their ideas on how the Government can do more for less. The first phase of the challenge aims to harness the expertise of those working on the front line, including NHS workers, police officers and civil servants. They say that all serious ideas will be considered by the Cabinet Office and Treasury and passed to departments to consider how they might be implemented. People can submit their ideas to the Spending Challenge website and a summary of the submissions will be published later this year. The public sector phase of the Spending Challenge will end on 9 July and the process will then be opened up to the general public. (24 June 2010)

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Enforcement

Draft Environmental Civil Sanctions (Wales) Order 2010: this draft Order, once passed, gives the Environment Agency in Wales the power to impose civil sanctions for a range of environmental offences. The civil sanctions are: fixed monetary penalties; variable monetary penalties; compliance notices; restoration notices and stop notices; and enforcement undertakings. The Order should be read together with the draft Environmental Civil Sanctions (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Wales) Regulations 2010. (16 June 2010)

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Health and Safety

Prime Minister’s Office: PM announces review of health and safety laws: Lord Young of Graffham has been appointed to undertake a Whitehall-wide review of the operation of health and safety laws.  He will investigate concerns over the application and perception of health and safety legislation, together with the rise of the compensation culture over the last decade. He is expected to report to the Prime Minister in the summer. (14 June 2010)

HSE: Cheshire recycling firm in court after worker loses leg under truck: reports that WSR Recycling Ltd has been fined £10,000 with £6,338 costs by Halton Magistrates’ Court for breaching the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 reg.17 (duty to ensure safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles). The waste company was prosecuted by the HSE after a worker lost part of his leg when he was crushed by an 18-tonne articulated shovel loader at the company’s Widnes site. (21 June 2010)

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Landfill

DEFRA: The New Technologies Demonstrator Programme: summary and key findings: the New Technologies Demonstrator Programme (“NTDP”) was set up to demonstrate innovative waste treatments technologies as possible alternatives to landfill. Nine projects covering a variety of different waste treatment technologies were originally selected. The programme aimed to prove the economic, social and environmental viability (or not) of each selected technology. Each NTDP project produced a report on their experiences, lessons learnt and the strengths and weaknesses of their technology. This paper summarises the key findings of the reports. (15 June 2010)

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Litter and Fly-tipping

Environment Agency: £74,250 in fines for massive illegal dumping operation: reports that Maidstone Crown Court has fined nine defendants a total of £74,250 plus £35,650 clean up closts and £24,000 prosecution costs for illegally dumping 8,000 cubic metres of waste at a site in Kent site adjacent to the M25 that was owned by the Highways Agency.  Made up of construction and demolition waste, the rubbish included very small bits of wood, plastic, metal, paper and tarmac. At the time the arrests were made, the pile of waste was 300m long, up to 5m wide and up to 3m high. (27 May 2010)

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Performance

DCLG: Pickles calls time on town hall quango forcing councils into bin cuts: announces that the Secretary of State has instructed the Audit Commission to withdraw its Waste Management Quick Guide to local authorities, thus freeing councils to return to weekly bin collections. The SoS believes that this document triggered the move to unpopular fortnightly collections and was designed purely as a cost cutting measure. He said that councils have been under the threat of being marked down in their inspection reports if they failed to comply with this guidance. (18 June 2010)

DCLG: Pickles strips away pointless Town Hall red tape targets: announces that the Communities Secretary has instructed the Audit Commission and five other local inspectorates to stop Comprehensive Area Assessment reports. Ending the CAA process will not affect the inspectorates' statutory powers to carry out inspections at their discretion such as when councils are failing. The SoS is aware that scrapping CAA will not remove all red-tape burdens so he has asked Greg Clark, Minister for Decentralisation, to lead on further reducing the Whitehall burden across the board.
The Audit Commission's Chief Executive has issued a statement on CAA abolition. (25 June 2010)

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Procurement

J Varney & Sons Waste Management Ltd v Hertfordshire CC [2010] EWHC 1404 (QB) (QBD): V was one of the unsuccessful tenderers for the contracts for the operation of the local authority's 18 Household Waste Recycling Centres for the five year period from 2008 to 2013. V was the incumbent operator at three sites for 2003 - 2008; it tendered for the contracts to operate 17 of the sites, but was awarded none. The invitations to tender consisted of instructions for tendering, drafts of relevant documentation and the conditions of contract, the return schedules and various appendices to the new contract. The return schedules set out the standard of service expected and were used by the local authority to assess the bids as regards customer satisfaction. V claimed damages against the local authority for breach of its obligations under the Public Contracts Regulations 2006.
The court held, dismissing V's claim, that the local authority was not in breach of its obligations of transparency in respect of the return schedules. The schedules were not award criteria but rather, they contained sub-criteria of the stated award criterion of customer satisfaction. Local authorities did not owe a general duty to investigate "suspect" tenders that appeared abnormally low. There was nothing in V's suggestion that the local authority should have appreciated that some of the tenders were abnormally low, and the suggestion that it was in manifest error in failing to investigate them was wholly without merit. There was no unilateral amendment of the contracts by the local authority, but even if there had been, and that that was a breach of public procurement law, it did not follow that there would have to be a competition for the new award. There was no implied contract between V and the local authority:  the Regulations created their own regime imposing duties on the local authority in relation to any tender submitted, and it was therefore unnecessary to imply a contract. Obiter, in the context of procuring public contracts the local authority had no discretion or "margin of appreciation" in relation to its compliance with its obligations of equal treatment and transparency, though it did have such a margin in relation to matters of judgment or assessment. (16 June 2010)

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Recycling

DCLG: Swapping bin bullies for recycling rewards: announces that the Government is to scrap the previous Government’s plans for a bin tax on household waste. The announcement was made during a visit to Windsor & Maidenhead’s recycling scheme that started off as a pilot and is now being rolled out across the council. The loyalty card style scheme will reward 60,000 households who volunteer to participate with points worth up to £135 a year, at no cost to other residents, from over 100 reward partners. Ministers praised it as the right way to encourage households to recycle waste, in stark contrast to bin taxes that would hit people in the pocket and spur on many to find ways to avoid paying through fly-tipping or bonfires in people's back gardens. While a matter for local discretion, the new Government will be encouraging councils which want to get involved in such reward programmes. (7 June 2010) 

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Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

Environment Agency: Batteries in waste electrical & electronic equipment: the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 set out the requirements for waste battery collection, treatment, recycling and disposal for all types of batteries, regardless of their shape, volume, weight, composition or use, or whether or not they are incorporated into appliances or vehicles. The Regulations set out the system by which the UK intends to meet waste portable battery collection targets of 25% by 2012 and 45% by 2016. This document sets out the Agency’s position on how Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities and Approved Exporters should deal with any waste batteries within the WEEE they receive for treatment. (10 June 2010)

Environment Agency: Plymouth Council fined after waste electrical goods from the city ends up in the wrong hands: reports that Plymouth City Council has been fined £8,000 with £3,742 costs by Plymouth Magistrates' Court for four offences relating to the transfer of controlled waste. The prosecution arose after the Agency discovered that the council had sold TV monitors, washing machines and other potentially harmful electrical waste at its civic amenity site to unauthorised recyclers. (11 June 2010)

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Waste Minimisation

Welsh Assembly Government: A consultation on the draft Single Use Carrier Bag Charge (Wales) Regulations 2010: seeks views on the details of how a charge on single use carrier bags would work. It proposes that a minimum charge of 7p should apply to all types of single use carrier bags handed out to consumers, with some exemptions, from March 2011. Shops selling more than 100 bags a year, or with a turnover above £68,000, will be required to publish an annual record of the number of bags they hand out and what the revenue is used for. Proceeds are meant to be used for green projects. The charge will be enforced by local authorities who will have power to impose civil sanctions for a breach. The consultation closes on 2 August 2010. (4 June 2010) 

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Waste Strategy

DEFRA: Review of waste policy announced: announces that the Government is to carry out a full review of waste policy in England, looking at the most effective ways of reducing waste, maximising the money to be made from waste and recycling, and how waste policies affect local communities and individual households. The review will include:

  • the effect of waste policies on local communities and individual households, and how local authorities can best work with people to make the best decisions;
  • maximising the contribution of the waste and recycling industries to the UK economically and environmentally;
  • how to work towards the “zero waste economy”, and drastically reduce the amount of waste created and valuable resources sent to landfill, looking at the entire process from source to end of life; and
  • new approaches to dealing with commercial waste and promoting ‘responsibility deals’, reducing the amount of waste generated by production and retail.

(15 June 2010)

Welsh Assembly Government: Consultation on the draft Municipal Sector Plan: seeks views on Part 1 of the Municipal Sector Plan that proposes how this sector can contribute to meeting the outcomes and milestones set in ‘Towards Zero Waste’, WAG’s overarching waste strategy for Wales. The Plan includes a proposal that Welsh councils will all have to operate the same waste collection systems by 2013, with weekly food waste collections, recyclable collections that cover a defined list of materials, and fortnightly collection of residual waste left over after recycling, and that grant funding to councils will be withheld if they do not introduce the suggested system. WAG also wants to prescribe the recycling services councils offer away from homes, and is also seeking views on whether councils should be required to pay recycling credits to third parties that recycle municipal waste outside council contracts. The Plan also proposes measures to encourage waste prevention and reuse. The consultation closes on 13 September 2010. (21 June 2010)

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