Exploring professional standards in waste management in the UK


Professional standards

CIWM trainer Lara Ayris, Owner and Managing Director, WPS Compliance Consulting, reviews professional standards in the sector and highlights where she believes there is room for improvement.

Although there is a wide range of waste legislation relating to the management of wastes and resources, including Duty of Care and Hazardous Waste regulations, there is still very little mandatory requirement for producers of waste to undertake any professional learning or to demonstrate they meet any professional standards in our industry.

One of the roles of CIWM as the professional institution for the waste and resources sector, is to “further and maintain good standards of practice, competence and conduct by all its members”. This is provided through the Chartered Wastes and Resource Manager Competences, CIWM Skills matrix, Members’ code of conduct and the Affiliated Members code of conduct.

professional development
CIWM offer a range of qualifications, formally assessed training courses and a series of Continuing Competence Tests.

All of which require demonstration of continuing professional development. In addition to this the Society for the Environment have further standards/competencies for those who want to demonstrate their professionalism in a more environmentally focused way.

Currently, as a professional working in the sector, there is no formal requirement to obtain and maintain these professional credentials. The only mandatory requirement is for those operating a permitted waste facility, where demonstration of compliance with an approved competence scheme is legally required.

CIWM offer a range of qualifications, formally assessed training courses and a series of Continuing Competence Tests that can be used to demonstrate Operator Competence for holding a waste permit. The range of waste and resource related legislation does not just apply to those who would consider themselves waste professionals. They apply to anyone who handles or produces waste.

Duty of Care is a legal requirement when dealing with certain kinds of waste. It requires reasonable steps to be taken to keep the waste safe, which are set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA). This requirement is applied to a holder of household, commercial and industrial waste (known as controlled waste), and is a self-policing regulation.

The Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 (as amended) form part of a framework for the controlled management of Hazardous Waste (Special Waste in Scotland). It is especially important to have the appropriate knowledge and skills in place to be compliant with waste classification and to manage waste safely without harming the environment or human health.

TrainingHowever, despite this, there is currently no requirement for those who play an integral role in waste classification and movement to demonstrate they are working to any professional standard or have the prerequisite knowledge and understanding.

Although it was consulted on in 2022 there is no fixed timescale in place to ensure waste carriers and waste brokers and anyone else involved in the classification of waste undertake any professional qualifications.

The Waste Legislations Route Map was established in 2014 and unveiled by The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). It is intended to help local authorities understand their legal obligations and determine whether their waste collection services are compliant with the necessary requirements.

Producer responsibility regulations encompass packaging, electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), batteries and end of life vehicles (ELVs) in the UK. It ensures that businesses who manufacture, import, and sell these products are held accountable for the product’s end-of-life environmental impact.

The environmental regulator in England for producers, producer compliance schemes and treatment facilities is the Environment Agency. Compliance with the schemes relates to targets and data rather than the demonstration of professional standards.

Regardless of the legislation that is in place, best practice needs to be the objective for all waste producers and the waste industry in general. Best practice refers to the areas of the sector that determine waste management performance, establishing a comprehensive strategy, promoting the prevention of waste, and setting an efficient waste collection service that encourages reuse and recycling.

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