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The Importance of Duty of Care

9 January 2019


Duty of Care: Defined

Duty of Care can be defined as: ‘an organisation’s responsibility to ensure all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that the waste is being transferred to another waste holder that will manage the waste correctly and safely’ (Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice). The Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice is an informative resource that provides in-depth guidance on Duty of Care.

Duty of Care legislation was introduced under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The legislation was created to ensure the safe and responsible management of controlled waste to protect the environment and human health. Waste Duty of Care applies to anyone who produces, carries, keeps, disposes of, treats, imports or has control of waste in England or Wales.

Duty of Care: Why is it necessary? 

It is important to carry out Duty of Care checks in order to demonstrate compliance with legislation and help avoid prosecution and/or fines. An organisation has a legal responsibility to track and trace its waste to ensure that it is being transferred, treated and disposed of appropriately. Duty of Care checks have become increasingly important as waste crime is on the rise.

Waste crime requires Government to spend large amounts of money and provide extra resources to the mitigation of irresponsible and illegal waste activity. In 2016, it was reported that waste crimes cost the English economy £1 billion a year and over 1,000 sites were found operating illegally (The Guardian). The sites that are operating illegally do not have the appropriate permits, licences and/or exemptions.

Recently, there has also been a spike in waste criminals renting land / empty industrial buildings and illegally dumping waste at the premises. Unfortunately, when the landowners return to the property, it – and large quantities of waste – have been abandoned. If the illegally operating waste company cannot be traced, it is then the responsibility of the landowner to track the waste back to the producer, pay clean-up costs and mitigation fees. If the waste is traced back to your business, your business could end up in court.

Duty of Care: What can you do?

There are various activities that can be carried out to ensure Duty of Care, including:

  • Ensure on-site waste management controls are in place and staff are appropriately trained.
  • Use only licenced waste carriers and licenced disposal sites. This information can either be obtained from the waste contractor or found online at the EA permit database. Make sure these permits and licences are kept on file and are up-to-date.
  • Send waste for disposal or treatment with the appropriate paperwork for every waste movement (i.e. Waste Transfer Note, Hazardous Waste Consignment Note and Season Ticket) and ensure that a copy of the paperwork is kept on file for the appropriate amount of time.

Regularly review waste documentation to ensure waste is being classified correctly and all other information is appropriately completed.

Is your organisation carrying out reasonable practices to ensure Duty of Care? 

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