This Update 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:

   Charging    Municipal Waste
   Enforcement    Permitting and Licensing
   Environmental Taxation    Recycling
   Hazardous Waste    Waste Management



Local Government Ombudsman: Hull Council criticised for wrongly charging care homes for waste disposal: the LGO has issued a report on its investigation into a complaint that for many years the Council had wrongly charged care homes for disposing of waste. The Council changed its policy in April 2008 but refused to refund charges it had made before then. In one year the complainant said that the home he managed was wrongly charged almost £2,000. The LGO found that the regulations did not allow councils to charge care homes for disposing of waste (although there can be a charge for collecting waste) and that this was clear from a Government Circular issued in 1992. She concluded that the Council should refund the charges it had made to Mr N and to other care homes before April 2008 as it had no lawful power to make them. (14 July 2011)

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Environment Agency: New powers improve environmental investment: reports that the Agency has used the new civil sanctions available under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 as an alternative to criminal prosecution. It has accepted an offer of £21,000 from Invensys Plc for packaging waste offences. The sanction relates to self-reported offences that occurred between 1998-2010 where the group and some of its subsidiaries had not been properly registered under the Packaging Waste Regulations as they had incorrectly considered their obligations as separate companies, not as part of a group. The company states that it will fund “environment improvements and community benefits” equivalent to the cost of the offences committed - including a local authority led community recycling initiative. It will also cover the Agency’s costs of its investigation and future monitoring. (22 July 2011)

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Environmental Taxation

HC Environmental Audit Committee: Budget 2011 and environmental taxes: this report scrutinises the Government’s strategy for environmental taxation. It states that HM Treasury has undermined public trust in green taxes by appearing to use them as a revenue raising tool rather than a serious attempt to change environmentally damaging behaviour. In particular, it criticises two recent tax changes: cutting a penny off Fuel Duty while providing no new incentives to switch to lower carbon alternatives; and the proposed changes to Air Passenger Duty that will do nothing to reduce emissions or make it a more effective environmental tax. The Committee calls on the Treasury to adopt a coherent strategy that sets out its objectives and rationale, the basis on which rates are set, and how their impact will be evaluated. It also finds that the Plan for Growth, published alongside the Budget, does not provide the much needed step-change to aid the transition to a low-carbon economy, and it calls on the Government to demonstrate greater commitment to putting the green economy at the heart of its growth plans. (7 July 2011)

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Hazardous Waste

DEFRA: The future of the Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances: seeks views on the proposed abolition of the Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances (ACHS) as a statutory NDPB, as provided for under the Public Bodies Bill currently before Parliament, and the Government’s preferred option to reconstitute this body as a new expert scientific committee.  It also discusses the proposed new Terms of Reference and the name for the successor body. The consultation closes on 14 October 2011. (7 July 2011)

DEFRA: Hazardous waste consultation: seeks views on the draft Hazardous Waste National Policy Statement (NPS) that builds on the 2010 Strategy for Hazardous Waste Management in England. The NPS establishes criteria to be used by applicants in applying for development consent and by decision makers in considering these applications. The consultation closes on 20 October 2011. (14 July 2011)

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HPA: Impact on health of emissions from landfill sites: this review collates the results of a number of studies looking at emissions from sites and research on health effects posed by modern landfill sites. It also takes into account the latest advice from the independent Committee on Toxicity  The HPA concludes that there has been no new evidence to change the previous advice that living close to a well-managed landfill site does not pose a significant risk to human health. (28 July 2011)

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Municipal Waste

Eurostat: Generation and treatment of municipal waste: statistics on the development of municipal waste generation and treatment from 1995 to 2009. They include an analysis of the evidence on decoupling, i.e. breaking the link between the production of material wealth and the production of waste. The figures show that municipal waste generation in Europe has slowed down and stabilised at about 520 kg per capita since 2002. (6 July 2011)

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Permitting and Licensing

Environment Agency: Regulating trials of waste management operations: this Regulatory Position Statement position statement clarifies the Agency’s position on the need for environmental permits for waste trials. (11 July 2011)

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European Commission: Assessment of feasibility of setting bio-waste recycling targets in EU, including subsidiarity aspects: this report examines the rationale behind the proposed targets for bio-waste recycling. It describes and analyses the expected economic, social and environmental impacts of these targets, and verifies whether there are reasons to propose a new target or targets based on the specific situation of MS and/or subsidiarity issues. The analysis confirms that the magnitude of the net benefits of bio-waste recycling targets depends to a large extent on the baseline scenarios. Depending on the ambition of the target, these benefits range from several hundreds of million EUR to several billion EUR. For the vast majority of estimates of the costs of separate collection, the net benefits of bio-waste recycling exceed the costs. The literature has also confirmed the need for a thorough optimisation of the collection scheme – it would certainly benefit authorities that start a new system of separate collection to learn from the experiences of others. (8 July 2011)

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Waste Management

Resource Recovery Solutions (Derbyshire) Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and Derby City Council [2011] EWHC 1726 (Admin) (Admin Ct): RRS applied to quash the SoS’s refusal of planning permission for a waste treatment facility on a site in Derby comprising disused land. An inquiry was held after the local authority refused permission. While that was ongoing, the local authority purported to revoke the regional spatial strategy (RSS); however, that revocation was held to be unlawful in R (Cala Homes (South) Ltd) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2010] EWHC 2866 (Admin). The inquiry proceeded on the basis that the RSS was not part of the development plan, but the SoS’s decision was taken when the position had been clarified by the court, namely the RSS was part of the development plan. The inspector dismissed the appeal. Her decision letter did not mention the RSS or whether the proposal complied with the development plan. RRS contended that the inspector failed to take into account the RSS or failed to refer the need to consider the strategy back to the parties following the decision in Cala Homes.
The court held, granting the application, that following the decision in Cala Homes and pursuant to the PINS guidance, the Inspector should have referred the matter back to the parties. The scale of the proposal was such as to be relevant to, and address the waste management needs of, an entire sub-region and was more than merely of local importance. The parties had made reference to the RSS at earlier stages prior to its abolition but had not made reference to it at the inquiry as it was understood to have been revoked. The inspector should have sought the parties' views on the materiality and weight to be given to the RSS. Given the content of, and supporting evidence contained in, the RSS it was impossible to say that the SoS would have reached the same decision had the inspector properly performed her duties. (5 July 2011)

DEFRA: Guidance on applying the Waste Hierarchy: Art. 4 of the revised Waste Framework Directive 2008/98 sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to environmental impact, that are known as the Waste Hierarchy. The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 implement the Waste Hierarchy in the UK. This guidance for all businesses and public bodies which generate, handle or treat waste  sets out:

  • what the waste hierarchy is;
  • how it works for a range of common materials and products;
  • what businesses and public bodies need to do; and
  • key questions and ideas for dealing with waste in line with the hierarchy.

(15 June 2011)

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