Is this a 'Pivotal Moment'?

Sam Corp, Head of Regulation, Apr 12, 2022

ESA has been pushing for many years for much more rigorous and effective regulation to discourage criminals from operating in our sector, and to clamp down hard on those that do, writes Sam Corp, ESA Head of Regulation

To support the publication of ESA’s 2017 report Rethinking waste crime, the posthumous registration of a West Highland Terrier, Oscar, as a waste carrier infamously demonstrated how broken the carrier, broker, dealers’ system was, and how it enabled criminal behaviour.

ESA’s 2021 report Counting the cost of waste crime showed that, despite much-needed government and regulatory focus, waste crime has continued to escalate, and now costs the UKeconomy £1bn a year. Naturally, we have welcomed the recent launch of the consultations on carriers, brokers, dealers (CBD) reform and electronic waste tracking.

The CBD consultation proposes a move from ‘registration’ to a permit-based system, which means that those who transport or make decisions about waste will have to demonstrate that they are competent to make those decisions. There would also be increased background checks for firms who move or trade waste, and it will be easier forregulators across the UK to take action against rogue operators. The increased checks should ensure that waste is managed by authorised persons only and, in theory, reduce opportunities for exploitation of weaknesses in the regime.

Mandating a UK-wide, digital waste-tracking service forthose handling waste will require an overhaul of waste record-keeping, with those handling waste required to recordinformation from the point it is produced to the stage at which it is disposed of, recycled and reused. The aim is to enable regulators to better detect illegal activity and tackle waste crime.

The two policy proposals, combined, could signal a pivotal moment in the fight against waste crime, a scourge that severely undermines confidence and investment at a crucial time for our sector. For both proposals to make a real difference, however, we will need strong and effective enforcement from the regulators, including appropriate deterrents for those that transgress.

Raising awareness of legal requirements for waste producers is also key to ensuring that waste does not fall intothe wrong hands. We won’t see real, positive change if householders and businesses continue to pay scant regard towho is collecting their waste or what they do with it.

Communicating Duty of Care requirements is something the ESA has always encouraged and in which it has played anactive role, despite the current CBD regime providing no guarantees of legitimacy because of the weaknesses inherent in the registration process. If, as hoped, the proposals enable householders and businesses to have real confidence that the person collecting their waste is legitimate, and has received proper scrutiny from regulators, then raising awareness becomes a much more valuable and important component.

It is also vital to be aware that electronic waste tracking will only work if we have confidence in the data that is plugged inat the front end. Ensuring that this works and prevents ‘gaming’ of the system will be vital to ensure success.

With implementation expected in 2023/24, the ESA will continue to work with Defra and the UK’s environmental regulators to ensure the proposals come to fruition, have a real and lasting impact on waste crime, and avoid any unintended consequences for legitimate operators.

*This article was first published in the CIWM Circular magazine (March/April 2022 edition), and has be reproduced with kind permission.