Circular explains revised "controlled" waste rules

An official circular explaining the complex new regulations which defined what is to be treated as "controlled" waste under Britain's waste management arrangements was issued at the end of May.1 The guidance also draws attention to recent rulings by the European Court of Justice which emphasised that "waste" includes materials which may be recycled or reused.

The new regulations, which apply throughout Britain, came into force on 1 April (ENDS Report 206, pp 36-7 ). They prescribe what kinds of household, commercial and industrial waste are to be treated as "controlled" waste for the purposes of the new duty of care and waste carrier registration regulations, and of the waste collection, recycling and disposal powers and duties of local authorities as revised by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The new definitions are explained in detail in the circular, which contains only minor amendments in the light of responses to a draft issued for consultation in January (ENDS Report 204, pp 30-1 ).

The guidance notes that the old definitions of "controlled" waste, last prescribed in 1988, will continue to apply for the purpose of waste disposal licensing until the new licensing regime under the 1990 Act is brought into force. The timetable for this remains uncertain.

The circular also deals with the vexed question of whether materials intended for or capable of recycling or reuse should be treated as "waste". It draws on recent judgements by the British courts (ENDS Report 182, p 35) to re-emphasise past advice that waste is defined from the point of view of the person producing or discarding the material in question. The courts have taken the view that just because a material has value from the point of view of the recipient does not alter its character as waste from the point of view of the originator.

These judgements have been reinforced by recent decisions of the European Court of Justice. In three cases referred to it by Italian courts, the Court ruled that "waste" is "not to be understood as excluding substances and objects which are capable of economic re-utilisation," and that any national laws which excluded such substances and objects from the definition of waste were not compatible with EC legislation (ENDS Report 184, p 30). The implications of these judgements should become clear shortly when the Government discloses its plans to implement last year's amendment to the 1975 EC framework Directive on waste (ENDS Report 199, pp 34-5).

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