In the UK every business has a legal responsibility within environmental law to ensure that all waste is dealt with following the correct procedure so as not to harm the environment. All businesses produce some form of waste and there a specific rules as to how business waste should be managed. As a business owner you are responsible for this waste whilst it is on your property, during transportation and indeed up to the point where it is handed over to another authorised waste contractor.
Non compliance can result in civil sanctions which can force the offender to rectify any damage done (at their cost). Failure to fix the environmental damage can result in your business being ordered to stop the activity which is causing the environmental problem or risk. Civil sanctions are relatively new and were introduced to enable the Environment Agency to make firms focus their efforts on cleaning up any environmental problems they have caused rather than just paying penalties. There is of course still the option for prosecution for serious cases but the emphasis is now focused on correcting the problems and repairing the environment rather than putting money into the governments coffers. This way the local community will actually benefit from the sanctions imposed.
It is therefore critically important that every business realises that they have a legal duty of care with respect to the environment.
So what does your Environmental duty of care cover?
The simple answer is everything. It covers all your business waste from the moment you produce it by whatever means, to the moment you pass it on to a authorised receiver for waste.
In basic terms:-
- You must adopt formal procedures and strategies to store and transport your waste without causing harm to the environment. There are guidelines as to how this should be done.
- It is your responsibility to ensure that your waste is only passed on and transported by an authorised person.
- You must maintain and keep ‘waste transfer notes’ to record when and who your waste was transferred to.
It all makes good sense really to keep these records. As you are responsible for your waste and any environmental damage it causes up to the point where you transfer it to an authorised carrier. So it is essential to be able to prove which waste was transferred to who and when. Because if you can’t prove that you transferred it then you will be liable for any environmental damage caused!
So compliance with all the current and evolving environmental legislation has to be part of your business process and operations. All the information is actually available via the Environmental Agency and NetRegs Websites. Sifting through the information can be time consuming. So how can you be expected to keep up with all of this as well as all the other things that have to be done?
Well the simple answer is to enlist the help of an environmental law firm or environmental consultants who will provide the guidance you need to ensure compliance with your environmental duty of care commitment.