The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty of care on all persons who import, produce, carry, keep, treat or dispose of waste or who, as brokers, have control of such waste. In practice, the duty applies to all industries and businesses in the UK, because all businesses produce waste of some description.
All businesses have to ensure that they appropriately manage, store their waste, and pass it on to an authorised person (normally a registered waste carrier) for appropriate treatment or disposal. They must take the waste hierarchy into account when deciding how to treat or dispose of their waste. The correct documentation also needs to be maintained, and organisations need to provide waste transfer documentation and waste carrier registration details for all waste transfers. The electronic duty of care (edoc) is an online system which can be used in place of paper transfer notes.
- The purpose of the duty of care is to make sure that anyone who imports, produces, brokers, carries, keeps, treats, and disposes of industrial or commercial waste takes reasonable steps to ensure the waste does not cause harm to the environment.
- Holders of the waste must first determine whether the duty applies to them.
- If the waste is being stored on site, then this should be done safely and securely.
- The waste must be transferred to an authorised person only.
- A waste transfer note, sometimes called a duty of care note, should be completed and a copy sent with the waste.
- Holders of the waste also need to decide if a separate description of the waste is necessary.
- All duty holders should be alert for signs of a breach of the duty by others in the chain. Action should be taken if appropriate.
- The Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will pursue breaches of the duty and prosecute if necessary.
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