Permission granted: simplifying waste regulation



A new course from CIWM aims to penetrate the less-than-clear waters of regulation and simplify the nightmare of applying for a licence, permission or exemption, Circular Magazine Editor Ian Farrell writes.

The waste and resources sector is a heavily regulated industry, with most operations requiring a permit, licence or exemption to operate. These serve to help protect the environment from damage caused by the poor handling of waste. That could be pollution of rivers and groundwater from landfill leachate; methane emissions from decomposing organic waste; toxic chemicals released from waste fires; or even pests affecting local residents.

Waste permissions must be obtained from one of the four regulatory bodies in the UK: the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Each of these bodies only looks after regulation in its own part of the UK, and regulations may differ slightly between these regions. That’s just the start of what makes applying for a waste permit a very complicated business indeed.

A certain amount of fairly complex information needs to be given to the regulator, so it can understand and assess proposed waste operations, and related environmental impacts and risks, before granting a permit.

This training has been designed in consultation with the EA.

The sheer quantity of information required can be daunting: details of planned operations; how relevant standards will be met; site plans and plant-design drawings; process flow diagrams; risk assessments; potential pollution risks… the list goes on. There are, however, detailed forms and guidance to assist with this. The EA also provides a basic (free) and enhanced (paid-for) pre-application advice service.

Another way to make the process easier is to ensure that staff who are responsible for applying for and editing new licences are properly trained in how to do so. This can mean less time spent on paperwork, which saves money, and fewer instances of the regulating body having to come back for clarification or extra information, which speeds things up.

A great way to get trained is with a new course from CIWM called Environmental Permitting and Exemptions, written with industry experts and the regulators themselves.

“This training has been designed in consultation with the EA, as part of the agency’s ongoing work with industry to improve application quality,” a spokesperson from the EA told Circular. “Better quality applications shorten determination times, making the permitting process more efficient both for the agency and for applicants.”

Environmental Permitting and Exemptions is a three-module course that aims to: explain the different types of permits, licences and exemptions across the UK; signpost technical standards; and explain the process of securing an authorisation, including the required documentation. Also covered are important aspects such as how to prepare an environmental risk assessment, and when you may need to seek external technical support.

The course comprises approximately 31/2 hours of online learning, followed by a three-hour online tutorial that is tailored to the delegate’s circumstances.

CIWM told Circular Magazine that, after completing the training, delegates will be able to understand the application processes; access guidance material; and know when to seek external technical support.

Being able to effectively manage the permitting side of a waste-management business is an express route to efficiency.

“This is something that’s crucial to do well,” says Jacqui Brunton-Douglas, of CIWM. “Being able to effectively manage the permitting side of a waste-management business is an express route to efficiency and can save your organisation time and money.”

What are the consequences of not getting this right? Laura Mackett, senior associate at law firm Dentons, says that they can be serious.

“If a business’s waste activities require a permit, it is a criminal offence to carry out those activities until a permit is granted and its conditions are complied with,” she says. “There is no grace period while a permit application is being processed. Unlawful waste activities can result in enforcement action or prosecution, ultimately resulting in fines and imprisonment.”

This is the worst possible case scenario, and a regulator is likely to give warnings before enforcement action is taken. However, time is money, and delays can be costly and frustrating for a business that is itching to get started on a new project.

“Delays can result if a regulator considers further information is required to determine a duly-made application,” Mackett says. “In this situation, they would serve a notice on the applicant specifying the further information to be provided in a set timeframe. If this is not complied with, the regulator can deem the application to be withdrawn, in which case a new application would need to be made. The regulator may also refuse a duly-made application. Such refusal can be appealed against.”

Getting permitting knowledge and expertise into your organisation is a sure-fire way to ensure the smooth running of new and existing projects and, ultimately, profitability.

For more details, visit CIWM’s Environmental Permitting and Exemptions course.

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