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Government Issues Consultation on Revised ‘Duty of Care’ Guidance

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A revised Code of Practice setting out how anyone who manages controlled waste has a ‘Duty of Care’ to deal with it responsibly has been launched for consultation in England and Wales.

The Consultation, which has been issued by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Welsh Government, aims to seek views on whether the Revised Code of Practice is fit for purpose and explains the Duty of Care requirements effectively and clearly.

Duty of Care is a legal requirement for anyone managing certain kinds of waste and requires them to take all reasonable steps to ensure the waste is kept safe and does not cause harm to human health or the environment.  The principles of Duty of Care are set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and apply to anyone who is a holder of household, industrial and commercial waste, known as controlled waste.

Section 34(7) of the Environmental Protection Act also requires the Government to consult with persons and bodies, representative of the interests concerned, before issuing a new Code of Practice. 

The purpose of the Code of Practice is to give simple, clear and practical guidance on what those who import, produce, carry, keep, treat or dispose of controlled waste have to do to fulfil their legal Duty of Care obligations.  However, the current Code of Practice does not reflect a number of important legislative changes relating to the Duty of Care that have been introduced since its publication in 1996 and therefore is in need of a review and update.

Compliance with the Duty of Care helps to ensure waste is managed safely and responsibly across the UK and prevent waste crime and fly-tipping, which is estimated to cost the UK economy £568 million a year.

In revising the Code of Practice, Defra has tried to:

  1. Explain the legislative requirements of the Duty of Care, and make clear who and what they apply to;
  2. Provide guidance so that each user understands how to demonstrate compliance with the Duty of Care;
  3. Signpost other legislative requirements that apply to the management of waste and must be complied with alongside the Duty of Care in particular circumstances; and
  4. Publish in a format that meets the needs of the user.

They want to know whether stakeholders think the revised Code of Practice gives clear and practical guidance on fulfilling legal Duty of Care Obligations.

The 13-page document is part of Defra’s efforts to make guidance ‘smarter’, meaning that it is shorter than previous guidance, with any duplication and best practice examples removed.  The revision was also carried out to take account of changes to legislation and policy since the first Code of Practice was launched in 1996, including the introduction of the five-stage legally-binding Waste Hierarchy and the emergence of electronic Duty of Care systems for producing Waste Transfer Notes electronically.

The consultation will run until Monday 21st September 2015 and can be accessed from the Defra website here

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