Business owners need to be aware of ongoing changes to waste management laws and regulations. Scott Hawthorne, founding director of Skips & Bins, explains new policies around packaging waste, the withdrawal of RPS 250 and control of persistent organic pollutants.

With so much discussion around sustainability and keeping business in line with government waste strategies, it’s important to keep up to date with new, and changing, regulations.

Failure to follow correct procedures can range from 12 months of imprisonment to an unlimited fine at the discretion of the prosecutor.

Controlling Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

At the start of 2023. it was announced that upholstered furniture containing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) must be disposed of through incinerators not landfills. This can be anything from office chairs and sofas to beanbags, with the most common pollutant being decabromodiphenyl ether.

When damaged, these furniture items can release toxic POPs into the air which are detrimental to both human and environmental health.

If you’re planning to overhaul your business premises or have office furniture to dispose of, this must be done carefully to avoid damage and reduce the risk of releasing dangerous chemicals, according to Environment Agency guidelines.

Withdrawal of RPS 250

Regulatory position statement (RPS) 250 covered the removal of hazardous waste wood from domestic premises, construction and demolition sites, and business properties.

Initially introduced in July 2021, conditions were placed on businesses to guarantee that waste wood from demolition and refurbishment was sent to a compliant incinerator or co-incinerator.

To be compliant with RPS 250, written systems and processes had to be in place to show that your business was in line with the waste wood assessment standards of the industry, particularly if a lot of waste wood is generated.

However, RPS 250 was officially withdrawn on 31 August 2023 because the regulation allowed for ‘amber’ waste wood from the construction and demolition (C&D) industry to be transported and processed as non-hazardous.

The change was brought about partly through the efforts of recycling groups like the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA), which aimed to narrow down the list of harmful waste woods, having found that the hazardous content of most C&D wood waste is less than 1%.

Withdrawing RPS 250 means that the materials will need to be disposed of through specialist waste plants and services unless they can be tested to prove they’re not harmful, and the list of hazardous wood waste has been reduced to 10 materials.

Packaging Waste (Data Reporting) (England) Regulations 2023

If your business produces packaging, these regulations are a must-know.

With effect from 28 February 2023, The Packaging Waste (Data Reporting) (England) Regulations 2023 place the onus on packaging ‘producers’ for waste collection and disposal.

Producers are now responsible for the environmental effect of packaging becoming waste by handling the costs of collection and disposal, thus encouraging a switch to more sustainable and recyclable practices.

An Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fee is required for local authorities and is scaled depending on the amount of packing supplied.

Since March 2023, producers have also had to curate their data on packaging and report on it to calculate the required fees.

This is very important to note as the term ‘packaging’ is incredibly broad and refers to any material that is designed to cover and protect goods, even extending as far as disposable coffee or drink cups. Your business may well fall into the category of producer, so it’s important to be aware of the reporting requirement so you can pay the appropriate fee and avoid any fines.

It is advisable for businesses in all sectors to have processes in place, so they are not only aware of existing waste management laws but can also stay updated on any future plans for change.

 In some industries, this could mean forecasting potential initiatives that local authorities or governmental bodies may focus on to hit targets. This is especially true within the food and hospitality sector, which could see high-intensity short-term regulations introduced to meet previous government targets of reducing food waste per capita by 20% by 2025.