UK legislation for the waste industry

   Chris Williams


In November 2021, the UK Environment Act became law. It contains a number of commitments, many of which affect the way we handle waste and recycling, and influence the adoption of a circular economy model.

The Environment Secretary at the time of the passing of the Environment Bill, George Eustace, said:

“The Environment Act will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. It will halt the decline of species by 2030, clean up our air and protect the health of our rivers, reform the way in which we deal with waste and tackle deforestation overseas. We are setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.”

What should the Act deliver?

For the waste and recycling industry, there are a number of measures contained in the Act which should promote a reduction in the use of raw materials, further recycling of waste, a supported secondary market for some materials and a reduction in waste being sent to overseas landfill. Specifically, the Act covers:

  • Extend producer responsibility to make producers pay for 100% of cost of disposal of products, starting with plastic packaging
  • A Deposit Return Scheme for single use drinks containers
  • Charges for single use plastics
  • Greater consistency in recycling collections in England
  • Electronic waste tracking to monitor waste movements and tackle fly-tipping
  • Tackle waste crime
  • Power to introduce new resource efficiency information (labelling on the recyclability and durability of products)
  • Regulate shipment of hazardous waste
  • Ban or restrict export of waste to non-OECD countries

Although this appears to be a list of specific targets, there is no detailed pathway to achieving them. So achieving these goals relies on a variety of individual policies being devised, implemented and monitored. It will also require a concerted effort from the waste and recycling industry to improve processes, take advantage of circular economy opportunities and be able to measure and report their progress.

For example, we have written before on the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility, where manufacturers will need to pay the full costs of managing and recycling their packaging. This is designed to encourage producers to find responsible ways of packaging their goods so that it is reusable or recyclable.

Managing legislative change

Like all new legislation, the UK Environment Act will require many businesses to go through a period of change. In order to comply with the standards and obligations set out in the Act, waste and recycling businesses will have to become more efficient, manage their own greenhouse gas emission plans, make financial investments in people and systems and in many cases change their priorities so that they support a circular economy system.

For many companies, this will require an investment in integrated software. Instead of multiple packages covering stand-alone functions – such as accounting or transport logistics – a single, integrated system allows for complete visibility across the business, giving the organisation a whole-system approach.

This allows for better reporting, better decision making and being better able to meet legislative requirements. It’s an innovative solution to finding efficiencies and taking advantage of commercial opportunities while also meeting environmental laws.

ISB Global is rooted in helping companies manage their waste and recycling processes so that they become more competitive, better informed and able to meet both their own and their clients’ regulatory and legal responsibilities. You can find out more about our leading Waste & Recycling One software solution by contacting us today.

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