Introduction to Waste Legislation

The volume of waste management legislation currently on the statute books means that it is impossible to cover every aspect here. Instead, we have concentrated on the main provisions that apply to universities and colleges and the main pieces of legislation applicable to the waste streams likely to arise. By reading this section, you should be able to identify the key pieces of environmental legislation with which your institution must comply and have a working understanding of the action which you need to take. More detail can be found by following the links.

It is not the intention of this section to provide definitive advice on compliance with waste management legislation, but simply to provide guidance to the main legislative provisions. If in doubt about the actions you should take to comply with specific aspects of waste management legislation, you should contact the Environment Agency in England and Wales or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland or seek advice from your legal advisor.

The Development of Waste Management Controls

Unlike other areas of environmental law, the development of legislative controls over the management and disposal of solid waste in the UK are comparatively recent. Previously, waste was considered simply as an unwanted substance of no value, which only resulted in aesthetic environmental impact. A number of high profile incidents, resulting in environmental damage, changed attitudes towards waste and heralded the introduction of legislation controlling its disposal.

Recent years have seen a broadening of the scope of waste legislation to cover a wider range of waste management operations. Waste management in the UK is controlled by legislation that is driven by, and transposes, European Directives and Regulations. Legislation now places responsibilities on all parties involved in the waste management chain, from the producer of the waste, to the person responsible for its final disposal.

Society’s perception of waste has also changed. It is no longer viewed as an unwanted substance, but rather as an unused resource. Waste minimisation, reuse and recycling now have a high profile and a recognised role to play in waste management, which is increasingly backed with mandatory provisions.

There is now a wide range of waste management legislation with which organisations must comply. Universities and colleges are no exceptions. Indeed, this is one of the few areas in which legislation can provide a major driving force for environmental improvement in the FHE sector.

Background to Waste Legislation

Waste management in the UK is controlled by legislation that is driven by and transposes European Directives and Regulations. The UK national controls on waste originated from the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and were strengthened by the introduction of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Early legislation focused on the disposal of waste, but since the introduction of the EC Framework Directive on waste, control has been widened to include the storage, treatment, recycling and transport of waste. The current legislation controls all sections of the waste management industry including storage, registration, licensing, monitoring and record keeping. It also imposes controls on specific waste streams such as hazardous waste and clinical waste.

The main elements of European waste legislation:

Waste Watch has produced a useful information sheet that describes the main areas of European and National legislation affecting waste management. This can be accessed at www.wasteonline.org.uk/resources/InformationSheets/Legislation.htm.

The range and complexity of waste legislation that impacts upon the HFE sector is considerable and there is every indication that the recent rate of change will be maintained in the foreseeable future.