Have your say on further cuts

Written by: Ben Messenger | Published:
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As part of its manifesto pledge to cut £10 billion of red tape in this parliament, the government issued a call for evidence to scrutinise regulations across the waste industry. Ben Messenger looks at where efficiencies might be found and how, in the face of impending cuts, they could be enforced

Under the banner of the government’s Cutting Red Tape programme in July this year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a review of waste sector regulations. The department is seeking the views of stakeholders operating across the chain from production and processing to collection, disposal and treatment.

The review aims to uncover potential efficiency savings as part of a wider programme to cut red tape across a number of areas of industry.

According to resource minister, Rory Stewart, the review is “an exciting opportunity to look at what else we can do to cut needless bureaucracy and remove unnecessary burdens on businesses in the waste sector”.

“We have already delivered savings of just under £1 million a year by removing requirements for businesses to create site waste management plans,” he says.

“I hope this review will identify more barriers we can remove to open up the industry to further growth and innovation.”

Steve Lee, CEO of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) offers a cautious welcome.

“These things are always seen as an opportunity,” he tells RWW. “But neither CIWM, nor I think its members, will identify unnecessary or unduly burdensome legislation or policy. It is more about deploying what we do have more effectively.”

“In general, the industry doesn’t believe that the body of regulation surrounding waste and resources is the particular problem,” continues Lee.

“I don’t think we’re going to identify any particular regulation or requirement that’s unreasonable and should be done away with. It’s not the body of regulation that’s the real issue.”

Data collection

The next issue that Lee brings up is the need for better tools for data collection and reporting.

Here he sees the continued advances in IT as offering the opportunity to reduce the burden of compliance on all actors in the chain. He also cites the example of the recently introduced Electronic Duty of Care (edoc) and ponders whether it could be extended to cover hazardous waste.

That’s a thought echoed up by Nia Owen, chartered waste manager and business area manager for auditing at consultancy firm Ricardo-AEA who also sees an opportunity to streamline some aspects of legislation. “The whole better regulation agenda certainly has merit,” she tells RWW.

“But it depends on the risks associated with certain things and what the impact of collecting the data is.

“Where they’re asking for similar pieces of information from different pieces of legislation if it were more considered it could be potentially simplified.

“There’s always scope to look at how things could be regulated better, but we also need to look at what’s being done elsewhere,” adds Owen.

Organic opportunities?

As with the CIWM, the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) is currently consulting its members over its response to the review.

Head of policy for the trade body, Matt Hindle, explains that the organisation is keen to champion issues where a more proportional approach could be taken without any environmental risk.

“Are there materials or categories of materials that are being categorised as waste, with all the regulation that goes with that, but which actually pose a similar risk to the environment as crop residues which are exempt from the regulations at the moment?” he asks.

“As an industry we very much value good regulation,” he continues. “That’s both as waste producers, supplying waste that’s been well segregated and which doesn’t have large amounts of contamination, and on the operator’s side. Our operators take a lot of pride in performing well and regulation gives them a framework in which to do that.”

While there is general consensus that being able to contribute to the reviewing and improving of waste regulations is an opportunity for the industry, Lee and Hindle both raise the issue of the need to enforce the regulations, whatever they may be. And in that regard both are also in agreement on their reservations over the impending cuts and the impact they could have on an already stretched Environment Agency.

Resource constraints

“We know that the Agency and Defra have some quite serious and increasing resource constraints and I think there is a concern in the industry going forward about whether the Agency in particular is going to be well enough resourced to prove the level of attention, and have the individual relationships with sites that we think officers need, as well as the resources to really look in detail into changes and how they can regulate better,” says Hindle. “I think the enthusiasm is there,” he adds. “But there is a concern about their resourcing.”

Lee agrees and says: “The number one issue is making sure that the regulators always have the resources to carry out new regulatory burdens placed on them, such as enforcing the MRF regulations.

“Otherwise you get the same responsible operators trying hard to comply and not being satisfied that everyone else around them is being properly monitored and required to comply.

“But it’s not just new burdens,” he continues. “For example, has the regulator got the appropriate resources to consider, and to issue, environmental permits? I suspect what you will find in response to this review is quite a lot of people saying it’s taken too long to get what they need from the Agency. The Agency is always looking for efficiencies, but if the industry is saying it’s taking too long to get a decision, it may well be because the regulator no longer has enough resources to do a quick and effective job.”

Few industries can be as heavily regulated as the waste industry. If efficiencies can be found then surely that can only be a good thing.

Indeed, much of the deadwood was cleared in a similar review three years ago.

However, with guidance from the industry there is a real possibility that the review will result in further improvements.

According to the resource minister this review is about giving the people who work in the waste industry a voice, an opportunity to have a say on regulations that affect them, and creating an efficient and productive waste industry.

The CIWM CEO has the last word: “Reviews themselves are neither good nor bad. It’s the response that matters”. And this is where you come in.

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