What lies ahead
Forewarned is forearmed, which is why environmental consultant Clare Taylor updates you on the energy and waste control changes planned for this spring.
The big news on the energy front is the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which comes into force in April. It has most impact on very large users of electricity (over 6,000 MWh per year) but will affect anyone supplied through half-hourly electricity meters.
At the time of writing the detail had not been finalised - so if you have such a meter, it's important to check on NetRegs or the Environment Agency CRC pages. You should have received a letter about it from the Environment Agency by now, but Murphy's Law dictates that some have gone astray.
The purpose of the scheme is to focus attention on energy use and encourage reduction. Although industry already has climate change agreements and emissions trading, there are still many large organisations, such as universities, government departments, local authorities, supermarkets and so on, who are very large users - but to whom energy use is not so significant as to be a focus for reduction.
For anyone who used over the 6,000 MWh threshold in the qualification year (2008 calendar year) there are detailed requirements for reporting on and trading in emissions. The overall scheme is planned to be revenue neutral - what you pay out for allowances is 'recycled' back six months later, but with a proviso. A league table is to be created based on organisations' performance in managing and reducing emissions, with those higher up the table being rewarded with a bit extra coming back, and those down towards the bottom penalised by getting a bit less. As a further incentive, the table will be published.
In the initial stages, there are 'early action metrics' that an organisation can take to move up the table - achieving the Carbon Trust Standard or equivalent and introducing automatic meter reading both qualify for this. After that, it's based on reduction of emissions.
Most of you will not qualify for the full scheme, but if you have a half-hourly meter, you still have to take action. If you do nothing, you could be fined.
If your electricity consumption, monitored through half-hourly meters in 2008, was below 3,000 MWh, all you need to do is log onto the CRC registry (which will be online from 1 April), give your company details and tick the relevant box. If it was between 3,000 and 6,000 MWh you need to make an information disclosure, giving a list of relevant meters and details of energy supplies through them.
There are issues surrounding subsidiary companies, franchises and those with landlord-controlled supplies - it's important to correctly identify who is responsible under the law. This article is too short to go into all the detail, but the guidance documents do explain it all, and there is a helpline.
Two new pieces of waste legislation are due to come in this year that will affect anyone in England and Wales who collects someone else's waste or who arranges for it to be collected - so this may affect those of you who pick up PVC signage, for example, for customers who want it recycled.
At the time of writing neither of the drafts were available, even though one of them is expected to come into force in April - but the general gist is known. The links at the end of this article should, by the time you're reading this, take you to more detailed information.
The aim of the legislation is to clamp down on the many people who take waste, for a fee, and then just fly-tip it - causing problems for the person who owns the land where they tip it (someone else's factory yard in the middle of the night, over the hedge in a farmer's field) and damage to the environment. But anyone not knowing the law could get caught up, even if transporting waste for the best of reasons, such as to recycle it.
If you collect your customers' waste and either transport it back to your own site for collection by your recycler, or take it to a recycler, then you are a waste carrier - even though you are recycling. Waste carriers need to be registered with their regulator, which is currently quite simple to do via their websites, with online forms and guidance documents. If you arrange, on your customers' behalf, for someone else to collect the waste, then you are technically a waste broker, and again need to register.
If you carry waste without a licence, unless it is your own, you can be fined, and the changes to the legislation are expected to increase the fines and make it easier for the authorities to use fixed penalty notices so that fining carriers will be less time-consuming for them. The current charge for a new licence (2009-2010) is ?152 in England and Wales, and the licence is valid for three years, but this may change. In Scotland, it's ?157 for a new licence (and the licence is also valid in England and Wales) and in Northern Ireland it's ?120.
You also need to complete a Waste Transfer Note - this acts as a receipt for them to say who they've given the waste to, and is signed by them to confirm what the waste is that they've given you.
The new legislation, currently known as the Waste Controls Regulations, is intended to simplify the existing rules and will also set out new requirements for waste transfer notes. It's expected to come into force in England and Wales in the second half of 2010.
The other new element in waste control are regulations to make it easier to stop and dispose of any vehicle used to transport waste illegally - so as well as being fined, you could lose your delivery vehicle. They will also make it easier to trace the registered keeper of such vehicles. These regulations, which will probably be called the Control of Waste (Seized Property) Regulations 2010, are expected to come into force in April. There are no changes expected in the near future to waste carrying legislation in Northern Ireland or Scotland.
When it comes to disposing of or recycling your own waste, you must ensure that whoever you give it to is properly licensed and that you have a Waste Transfer Note for it - to check licences, look on the Environment Agency website, under 'Public Registers'. It's a search site linked from the Business and Industry page mentioned earlier. If your waste is found fly-tipped, you can be prosecuted - it's your responsibility right up until it reaches its final destination.
Waste batteries are another topic of recent and forthcoming legislation. Disposing of automotive or industrial batteries - such as those powering forklift trucks - in landfill is illegal. If you're replacing one, the old one should be returned to the producer of your new battery - ask your supplier for details of arrangements for this. If you need to dispose of an old battery but are not replacing it, contact the original producer (usually the brand owner), or a producer of the same type of battery if they are no longer around, to handle it.
By the time you are reading this, there will also be legislation in place for portable batteries - the kind used on everyday items like calculators and torches. Responsibility for arranging proper disposal falls to your supplier; if you are a business user, your supplier should be a member of a collection scheme. At home, waste batteries can be returned to shops that sell them (apart from very small shops that don't sell many) or to civic amenity sites (the local tip).
This is because batteries can contain cadmium, mercury and lead, which may cause problems if sent for disposal to landfill or by incineration - the usual places for the contents of our dustbins. They also contain metals that can be recycled, saving resources and reducing carbon emissions. For more information on all this, see the Batteries page of NetRegs.
Finding out more
The regulators for the UK are well aware of the difficulties that businesses, especially smaller companies, have in keeping up to date with legislation and what they should be doing. To help with this, the three of them - England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - have created NetRegs. This explains the requirements of all the environmental legislation very clearly, and helpfully breaks the site down into types of industry so you can just look for what is likely to be relevant for, say digital printers. You can also sign up for regular updates.
The main regulatory authorities:
The Environment Agency: www.environment-agency.gov.uk
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency: www.sepa.org.uk
Northern Ireland Environment Agency: www.ni-environment.gov.uk
For detailed information about the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme:
Clare Taylor can be reached at Clare@clare-taylor-consulting.co.uk