What is Mandatory Digital Waste Tracking?

The government plans to introduce mandatory digital waste tracking across the UK by 2024. It aims to provide a comprehensive way to see what happens to the more than 200 million tonnes of waste the UK produces annually. This should show where and how waste is created, who handles it, what happens to it, and where it ends up.

Currently, there’s no single way of tracking all waste created in the UK. Legislation around waste transport, management and descriptions have been introduced separately over the last few decades. Data about waste is collected by both private contractors and the government across different IT and even paper systems. Mandatory digital waste tracking aims to centralise this.

We’ve answered some key questions about the service to help you understand what mandatory digital waste tracking is, why it’s being introduced, how it could work, and what it might mean for your business.

woman's hands typing on a laptop.

What did the consultation on mandatory 
digital waste tracking find?

The UK, Scottish, and Welsh governments, and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, ran a joint consultation on the introduction of mandatory digital waste tracking from 21 January 2022 to 15 April 2022. Waste policy is a devolved issue but all four agreed to develop a UK-wide waste tracking service.

The consultation received 713 responses. These were mainly from waste producers, waste transportation companies or carriers, waste site operators, local authorities, waste brokers, business representative organisations or trade bodies. Some of the key findings from the consultation were:

  • 79% of respondents agreed with the proposed types of waste to be tracked – including controlled waste (hazardous and non-hazardous household, commercial and industrial waste) and extractive waste (waste from quarries).
  • 84% of respondents thought destination details for all waste movements should be tracked – and 79% want details of the person who classified waste
  • 32% of respondents estimate it’ll take one and three years to transition to real-time recording for movements or transfers of hazardous waste.
  • 40% of respondents also think transitioning to real-time recording for movements or transfers of non-hazardous waste will take one to three years.
  • 39% of respondents believe waste carriers should enter details 24 hours before moving hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
  • Almost 75% agreed with proposed offences and enforcement These include fixed monetary penalties for not registering on the waste tracking service where required and variable monetary penalties for intentionally or recklessly providing incomplete or false information in a digital record.
  • Common barriers mentioned for real-time recording included costs, time, client or supplier adoption of the service, access to technology, available resources, training, and setting up or merging existing systems.

Read the full responses to the Introduction of Mandatory Digital Waste Tracking

What waste types will 
be tracked?

Under the proposed mandatory digital waste tracking service all waste types will be tracked. This includes hazardous and non-hazardous waste, green waste, extractive waste (from quarries), and all other types of commercial and industrial waste. Therefore, every business will be affected by the new tracking service whatever types and amounts of commercial waste they produce.

When will mandatory digital waste 
tracking come into force?

The UK government has been vague about when mandatory digital waste tracking will come into force. Currently, there’s a general target date of 2023 or 2024 to launch the digital waste tracking service – depending on IT development progress and transition requirements of businesses.

Why is digital waste tracking 
being introduced?

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency set out commitments in the ‘Resources and waste strategy for England’ published in 2018. This is a strategy to minimise waste, promote resource efficiency and move towards a circular economy to preserve material resources.

Mandatory digital waste tracking aims to work towards these commitments and:

  • Determine what happens to our waste – to gain a good understanding of whether waste is recycled, recovered, or disposed of and identify actions for improvement.
  • Improve sustainability – waste producers and waste managers will have accurate data to see how much waste they produce and how it’s managed, to make informed decisions and changes to enhance their sustainability.
  • Centralise, collate, and digitise waste data – current waste data is spread across digital and paper systems and tracking isn’t mandatory. Mandatory digital waste tracking aims to bring all waste information together.
  • Save time and effort for waste companies – replacing paper-based tracking and data and moving over to one system should save businesses time and make it much easier to ensure compliance with waste reporting requirements.
  • Tackle waste crime – 18% of all waste in 2021 was ‘perceived to be illegally managed at some point’. Digital waste tracking should make waste crime harder (such as fly-tipping, illegal waste exports, and sites).
fly tipping on a field.

How will digital waste 
tracking work?

The exact details of how the UK government’s mandatory waste tracking service will work are yet to be released. However, based on existing digital waste tracking systems it will involve submitting information about the waste type, quantity, waste carrier, destination, disposal method, and other details. These will likely be submitted for every waste load that leaves your business.

Who will be responsible for entering this tracking information is also unclear currently. As a business that produces waste, it could be down to you, or it may be the responsibility of the waste carrier, broker, or management company that collects your waste. There may also be a cost for digital waste tracking when it is enforced, but no details have been released yet.

What will my business 
have to do?

Expect digital records to replace all paper documents you use to track your waste. Once the mandatory digital waste tracking service is operational you’ll likely have to register and possibly pay for the service. To avoid any mistakes and potential penalties it’s important you collate as much information as possible about your waste in advance.

Work with your waste management partners and/or carriers to determine the types and amounts of waste you produce, how often, and where they go. This can provide a good idea of the information you’ll need to use when the tracking service is live. Ensure you know who is responsible for entering the data when mandatory digital waste tracking goes live.

Keep an eye out for further developments about mandatory digital waste tracking and any communication from your current waste provider to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Mandatory digital waste tracking policy paper

Get help with your 
digital waste tracking

At Business Waste, we’re experts in the world of commercial waste management. We’re keeping a keen eye on the progress of mandatory digital waste tracking and are here to help if you’ve got any questions about it. Call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online with any queries or a free quote tailored to your waste collection needs.

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