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Duty of Care

“The Duty of Care is a law which says that you must take all reasonable steps to keep waste safe. If you give waste to someone else, you must be sure they are authorised to take it and can transport, recycle or dispose of it safely. If you break this law, you can be fined an unlimited amount.” (source: Defra)

What is Duty of Care?

The Duty of Care established a regulatory regime which is clearly intended by the government to be a largely self policing scheme, where “all waste holders will wish to protect themselves against the consequences of misbehaviour by any other party in the waste chain.”

The origins of this approach reflect the history of an industry regulated by more than 170 autonomous local authorities working within non-statutory guidelines. This led to widely variable standards and entirely unequal competition between operators active in different parts of the United Kingdom. This in turn led to a spiralling downwards in disposal standards where reputable companies investing in state-of-the-art technology and methods faced an unfair price war with less scrupulous operators.

The Duty of Care was drafted to remedy that trend by putting a legal responsibility firmly on the waste producer to achieve lawful waste management. Subsequently the duties of the waste regulation authorities have been brought into the Environment Agency.

Your Responsibilities

The full practical implications of the Duty of Care are numerous and require any organisation generating waste to appraise its waste management practices in some detail.

  • Onsite the requirement to prevent escape of wastes implies the need for a thorough knowledge of all the wastes produced as well as proper planning for waste storage and movement. Regular inspections, detailed forethought and contingency plans are all essential.
  • Offsite the wastes must be securely packaged or contained’, paying due regard to all foreseeable events which may happen to them and the description with the waste must be adequate to prevent it being mishandled later in the disposal chain.
  • Your Duty of Care also doesn’t end when you’ve handed over your waste to a suitable person. You must select only a carrier registered to handle your type of waste (in terms of their equipment, training, and awareness).
  • It is also your responsibility to select a suitable transfer station and disposal site. You must check that the licence of the facility is suitable for both the type and the amount of waste you plan to send and assure yourself that your waste is handled property at the disposal site.

You must also keep proper records of all your waste movements available for inspection for 2 years.

You cannot contract the Duty of Care for your waste away to someone else. Management will be held responsible for all the acts or omissions by staff and employees so you cannot shift your DoC on to either your contractors, or your staff. When your waste is in someone else’s hands, your DoC is shared BUT as the producer of the waste you always have a responsibility. Well constructed, unambiguous contracts with the people who handle your waste are therefore vital and will allow you to act immediately to put matters right should you discover or suspect any breach of your own or your contractors DoC.

Lastly you must review some arrangements at least yearly.

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