Cutting red tape reform for waste sector

The UK Government has identified some areas of reform for the waste industry in its bid to save businesses £10 billion from the cost of regulation.

The Government held a review of the waste sector between July and September 2015 as part of the Cutting Red Tape programme and asked businesses, trade associations and industry experts to help identify bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to growth and productivity in the sector. The Department for Business and Skills (BIS) has released a report on the findings of the review which commits to a programme of regulatory reforms to cut red tape by simplifying, removing or reducing burdensome legislation, regulations, guidance or codes.

The Cutting Red Tape: Review of the Waste and Recycling Sector report tackles specific issues, such as the current permitting system, the producer responsibility regulations and inspections regime as well as the more strategic issues of duplication of regulation and the interpretation of EU Directives.

The review’s report says that the sector was chosen to be in the first phase of red tape reviews due to its contribution to the UK economy and the fact that waste regulation impacts on businesses across the economy. According to the Office for National Statistics, the waste sector has over 5,200 businesses in the UK, employing 106,000 people and producing a turnover of £18.5 billion a year.

Principal themes identified as part of the review are:

  • Definition of waste: decisions on whether or not materials are waste or have ceased to be waste are burdensome, costly and time consuming.
  • Waste recovery or disposal determinations: the approach to determining whether an activity involving the permanent deposit of waste on land is waste recovery or waste disposal is inconsistently applied.
  • Hazardous waste: the rules for managing wastes designated as ‘hazardous’ and the benefits of registration of sites that produce hazardous waste are disproportionate compared to the levels of risk involved.
  • Permitting: respondents to the review complained about the length of time taken to process permit applications, inconsistency between officials and in the use and application of ‘standard rules’.
  • Guidance: according to some respondents, current guidance is not encouraging new techniques, practices or innovation and is not easy to locate.
  • Exemptions: the requirement for registering exemptions for low-risk activities creates unnecessary burdens compared to the levels of risk.
  • Fuel from waste: the way waste products are regulated and the lack of incentives act as barriers to creating a domestic market for fuels derived from waste.
  • Producer responsibility: the systems around delivering producer responsibilities are too complex, costly and burdensome.
  • Inspections: some inspections are being undertaken by officials without the necessary qualifications, experience or training to properly carry out an assessment.
  • Interpretation and implementation of EU directives: The interpretation of EU directives in UK law means that there is little or no flexibility in how they are complied with, placing businesses at a disadvantage compared to competitors in other member states.

The Government has said they have developed an ambitious plan of action to tackle the issues identified in the review and is committed to wide consultation as they take actions forward, ensuring that all businesses have an opportunity to help shape the outcomes. The report states: “We are confident that by acting on and addressing the findings from this review, we will develop a more proportionate, coordinated and risk based approach to the regulation of the waste sector that will benefit business and regulators.”

A progress update is expected in January 2017.

Tell us your views

If you have any views on this report, or if you would like to comment on any current issue in the waste sector in our quarterly newsletter, get in touch with Lucy Brooks, Communications Manager, on 01273 929223 or email

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