The Environment Agency updated it’s IsitWaste tool page yesterday, announcing the temporary (3 month) suspension of the Definition of Waste panel. The service will be reviewed in November 2016, according to the webpage.
The definition of waste is one of the most hotly contested areas of waste management, and has been since the first definition was included in Directive 75/442/EEC – the first Waste Framework Directive. It defined waste as “…any substance or object which the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the provisions of national law in force…” and the use of ‘dispose of’ caused numberous problems, not least because ‘disposal’ was defined as “…the collection, sorting, transport and treatment of waste as well as its storage and tipping above or below ground, – the transformation operations necessary for its re-use, recovery or recycling.”, thereby creating a circular definition since ‘disposal’ was things that happen to ‘waste’ and ‘waste’ was something that is disposed of. Various revisions to the Directive attempted to correct this (and other) problem(s) with the latest definition – Article 3 (1) of Directive 2008/98/EC, the Revised Waste Framework Directive – being “’waste’ means any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or isrequired to discard.”
In November 2014, the published the ISITWaste tool, and associated guidance, to help businesses in England (waste is a devolved matter in the UK) to determine whether their by-products were waste and at what stage of processing materials ‘end of waste’ status was achieved. In May this year, they updated their Legal Definition of Waste guidance. However, there were still many instances where businesses were left unsure as to whether or not materials needed to be handled under the waste regime and could, in those instances, turn to the panel for guidance. Whilst this guidance was not legally binding, it none the less provided some reassurance, for both businesses and regulators, that ‘due consideration’ had been given to waste status and thus reduced the likelihood of prosecution in the event of any disputes.
It is believed that the suspension is due to staff shortages and to be hoped that these can be resolved within the three month suspension term so that this valuable service can be restored.