Business Waste

What is the Environmental Protection Act 1990?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) is the most important statute that covers waste management in England, Scotland, and Wales. It establishes the fundamental structure and authority for waste management. This includes legal responsibilities for waste collection, removal, and disposal. All businesses that produce, move, store, treat, dispose of, or recycle waste must comply with the EPA.

It was introduced to replace the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA). This involved bringing in new regulations to improve management systems for waste and pollution, aiming to strengthen pollution control by enforcing stricter penalties. The act also covers statutory nuisances, litter, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and nature conservation.

Currently, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 has nine parts comprised of 164 sections. Reading through pages of legislation that doesn’t apply to your organisation could take hours and lead you nowhere. Save time with our succinct Environmental Protection Act 1990 overview focused on its application for waste management.

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Environmental Protection Act 1990 summary

The main points of the EPA that apply to businesses regarding their waste management are covered in this brief Environmental Protection Act 1990 summary:

  • Controlled waste is any household, industrial, or commercial waste.
  • Section 33 covers the storage, treatment, and disposal of waste – relevant to any business that produces any kind of waste.
  • Businesses have a duty of care for the disposal of commercial waste under section 34.
  • It’s an offence to treat, keep, or dispose of controlled waste in a way that could harm human health or cause environmental pollution.
  • Depositing controlled waste in or on any land or submitting controlled waste to an unlicensed facility (knowingly causing or allowing this to happen) is also an offence unless a waste management licence authorising the deposit is in force.
  • A waste management licence is required to deposit, treat, keep, or dispose of controlled waste.
  • Businesses must register with their national environmental regulators to get a waste management licence (such as the Environment Agency in England, SEPA in Scotland, and Natural Resources Wales in Wales).
  • Punishments for failing to comply with the EPA can include fines, court hearings, and prison time.
Controlled waste regulations guide

What does the Environmental 
Protection Act 1990 cover?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers the legal responsibilities for controlling pollution of land, air, and water, as well as waste disposal. There are nine parts to the UK Environmental Protection Act 1990. Each part has many sections that cover different areas aimed at protecting the environment. The nine parts of the EPA cover:

  • Part I Integrated pollution control and air pollution control by local authorities – authorisations, enforcement, and publicity
  • Part II Waste on land and contaminated land – collection, disposal, and treatment of controlled waste, duty of care, waste management licences
  • Part III Statutory nuisances and clean air – nuisances such as noise and odour pollution
  • Part IV Litter – offence, notices, and penalties for littering
  • Part V Amendment of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 – fees, charges, and enforcement powers
  • Part VI Genetically Modified Organisms – controls, consents, inspectors, enforcement powers, and offences
  • Part VII Nature conservation in Great Britain and countryside matters in Wales – property, rights, and liabilities for councils
  • Part VIII Miscellaneous – pollution at sea, control of dogs, environmental expenditure
  • Part IX General – offences by corporate bodies, service of notices, and financial provisions

What is the purpose of the 
Environmental Protection Act 1990?

The purpose of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is to set out the structure and authority of waste management and emissions control in England, Wales, and Scotland. It aims to protect the environment with controls that work towards reducing air pollution, carbon emissions, and harmful waste disposal practices.

The act outlines the obligations of businesses and individuals to protect the environment, as well as enforcement processes and penalties for non-compliance. This includes the need for a waste management licence, litter offences, and national waste strategies for England, Wales, and Scotland.

Protect the environment in England, Wales, and Scotland
pile of rubbish food and drinks packaging.

Who does the 
EPA apply to?

The Environmental Protection Act applies to every business and person in England, Wales, and Scotland. It’s particularly important for any organisation that produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of any type and amount of controlled waste. Every company should ensure its practices are compliant with the EPA to operate safely.

Environmental Protection Act 1990 waste disposal

Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers waste on land and focuses on waste management. Within this are two important sections regarding waste disposal – sections 33 and 34. Section 33 covers the storage, treatment, and disposal of waste, while section 34 establishes a duty of care for those involved with waste management.

All commercial waste must be stored, removed, and disposed of in line with the obligations covered in these sections of the EPA. Even though you’ll likely use a waste management company to transport and dispose of your business waste, you must be aware of the act to ensure safe, legal, and responsible disposal.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers waste disposal in these two sections:

Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers the prohibition on unauthorised or harmful depositing, treatment, or disposal of waste. Essentially, it makes each of the following actions an offence that can result in punishments and prosecution:

  • Depositing – or knowingly causing or permitting controlled waste to be deposited – on land without or in accordance with an environmental permit.
  • Treating, keeping, or disposing of controlled waste – or knowingly causing or permitting it – without a waste management licence.
  • Treating, keeping, or disposing of controlled waste in a way that could harm human health or cause environmental pollution.
The prohibition on unauthorised or harmful depositing, treatment, or disposal of waste

Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 assigns a duty of care to businesses and individuals for waste disposal. Essentially, any organisation that produces, imports, keeps, stores, transports, treats, or disposes of any type or amount of controlled waste is responsible for ensuring reasonable steps are taken for proper management of the waste.

This section of the act ensures all businesses that generate waste must keep it safe, ensure it’s handled responsibly and only passed onto authorised businesses. The main duty of care obligations covered in section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 mean businesses must:

  • Use licensed waste carriers to collect and move your commercial waste or register as a licensed waste carrier yourself.
  • Maintain the proper paperwork (duty of care certificate or waste transfer notes) related to waste disposal for at least two years.
  • Store business waste safely and securely, reducing the risk of environmental pollution and harm to people or animals.
  • Handle commercial waste separately from domestic waste – taking it home or for disposal with domestic waste breaches the EPA.

Environmental Protection Act 1990 
fines and penalties

Various penalties and fines may apply for any breaches of the EPA. Environmental Protection Act 1990 fines can vary depending on under which section the offence occurs. For example, section 33 offences can lead to an unlimited fine and a maximum custodial sentence of up to five years.

The Environment Agency and local authorities can enforce punishments in breach of the EPA. Individuals and businesses could be guilty of an offence under section 34 if another person or company dumps their waste. First-time offences can result in an on-the-spot fine of £300 and a warning, while repeat or severe offences could lead to a court hearing.

Cases might go to the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court based on the specifics of the offence. Further punishment can include the revoking of licences. Ensuring all your commercial waste is handled by licensed individuals and businesses is vital to avoid facing any Environmental Protection Act 1990 penalties.

bin men loading waste into truck on street.

Get Environmental Protection Act 1990 guidance

At Business Waste we’re commercial waste management experts. We only work with licensed waste carriers and ensure all waste is stored, removed, and disposed of safely and legally in line with the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Our team of friendly experts are happy to answer any questions you have or offer advice for your waste management solutions.

Contact us online or call 0800 211 8390 and speak to one of our friendly team for additional Environmental Protection Act 1990 guidance today.

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