Environment Agency uses new waste powers for first time

Out-Law News | 28 May 2019 | 2:22 pm | 1 min. read

The UK’s Environment Agency (EA) has used powers introduced last year for the first time, blocking access to an illegal waste site after obtaining a restriction order against the company.

The Waste Enforcement (England and Wales) Regulations 2018 added to section 109 of the Environment Act 1995 the regulator's ability to apply to a court for a restriction order to prohibit access to and prevent the importation of waste into premises.

In the first example of the powers being used, the EA carried out an investigation into a Birmingham company which was operating without an environmental permit and causing emissions such as dust and smoke which were affecting neighbouring properties.

James Nierinck

Pinsent Masons

This ... ties in with broader action we are seeing by the EA across the board in respect of waste crime and waste duty of care

After the company failed to comply with requirements, the agency applied to the Birmingham Magistrates Court for a restriction order which will restrict access to the site and prohibits waste from being accepted on to the site for the next six months.

Environmental law expert James Nierinck of Pinsent Masons said there were various conditions which had to be met in order for a restriction order to be granted.

The person or company concerned must have contravened one of a list of statutory waste provisions, such as the unlawful deposition of waste. Their conduct must be causing pollution to the environment or harm to human health, and the restriction order must be necessary to prevent that pollution or harm from occurring.

“The provisions in Sections 109A-N of the Environment Act give the EA enhanced powers to prohibit access to and the importation of waste into all or part of a property,” Nierinck said.

“This is the first application by the EA for a restriction order of which we are aware, and ties in with broader action we are seeing by the EA across the board in respect of waste crime and waste duty of care,” Nierinck said.   

The EA said it had stopped illegal waste activity at 812 sites last year, and had successfully prosecuted 93 waste crimes resulting in 17 prison sentences in 2017/18.

Last year an independent review of the way waste crime in England is investigated, policed and enforced recommended substantial reform of the current regime, saying that the EA’s powers should be further expanded to allow it to lock the gates to problem waste sites to prevent waste illegally building up and powers to force operators to clear all the waste at problem sites.

The government followed up the review by launching a waste strategy for England in December 2018, putting producer responsibility at the heart of the plans.