UK: New Agricultural, Mining and Quarrying Waste Controls

Last Updated: 22 June 2006
Article by Paul Rice and Helen Keele

On 15 May 2006 the Government enacted the Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations 2006, marking an end to the waste exclusions previously enjoyed by certain premises used for agriculture, mines and quarries. As a result, these sectors will now be regulated by the same controls imposed on all other sectors.

Background

In December 2004 the European Court of Justice ruled that the exclusion of agricultural and non-mineral quarrying waste from waste management controls in the UK (as provided by the Environmental Protection Act 1990) was contrary to the Waste Framework Directive. As a result, the Government enacted the Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 (the ‘New Regulations’). The agriculture, mines and quarries sectors will now be regulated by the controls imposed on all other sectors since May 1994, in the case of the Waste Framework Directive and June 2002, in the case of the Landfill Directive.

The Government argues that the changes will not only bring the UK into line with the Waste Framework and Landfill Directives, but will strengthen environmental protection and encourage minimisation and recycling of such waste. The New Regulations will be enforced by the Environment Agency and will only apply to England and Wales. Similar legislation is already in force in Scotland, while Northern Ireland should introduce the new requirements later this year.

Under the New Regulations, the Landfill Directive requirements (concerning the prohibition on unauthorised or harmful depositing, treatment or disposal etc. of waste) and duty of care requirements (in relation to the storage, handling and transport of waste) imposed by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 now also apply to agriculture, mining and quarrying operations.

Application to Agriculture

The provisions of the New Regulations will particularly affect farmers who will now be required to stop burying, dumping or burning plastics, tyres or other materials which may cause pollution or harm to the environment without a waste management licence or under a registered exemption. Any farmer who continues to ‘farm-dump’ after 15 May 2007 will have to comply with aftercare requirements when the activities cease.

There is a transitional period of 12 months before the New Regulations come fully into force on 15 May 2007, during which time DEFRA proposes to carry out supplementary consultation on further exemptions for agricultural waste from waste management licensing requirements. Farmers will be allowed until 15 November 2006 to register with the Environment Agency to transport agricultural waste on a professional basis or as a waste dealer or waste broker; and until 15 May 2007 to apply to the Agency for waste management licences, to dispose of or recover agricultural waste on-farm, or to register for licensing exemptions.

Application to Mines/Quarries

Extending controls imposed by the New Regulations to mines and quarries is likely to have less impact, since most businesses are already used to working within waste management licensing controls.

Mines and quarries will also be affected by the Directive on the Managing of Waste from Mines and Quarries (2006/21/EC) which is separate to, but works alongside the New Regulations. This Directive will affect virtually all operators of mines and quarries and covers all aspects of the collection, transport, treatment, recovery, handling and disposal of extractive waste and is required to be transposed into national law by 1 May 2008.

The main elements of the Directive include: linking conditions with the issue of operating permits; the introduction of new obligations in relation to waste management i.e. describing the waste before disposing of or treating it; the introduction of measures to ensure the safety of waste management facilities; a new requirement to take steps to prepare plans for the closure of waste management facilities; and a requirement to provide an appropriate level of financial security.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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