The Duty Of Care- and the penalties of not following it

The Duty of Care for recycling is a document stating the requirement that those dealing with waste keep it safe, deal with it responsibly and hand it over to only business professionals.

Not following the Duty of Care laws in your company can cause dire consequences to you and your business.

The Duty of Care remains active from the waste’s creation up until its disposal. Because of this, it’s important to make sure whoever is dealing with your waste has the correct licences and credentials to legally handle it. Illegal disposal will lead to your business facing fines or high-ups facing prison time, should the waste be traced back to you failing to uphold the law.

To make sure you don’t have to face any of these punishments, including a prison sentence of up to 12 months or five years (depending on severity), you need to make sure you avoid any illegal activities mentioned in the Environment Protection Act 1990.

One of the key things all businesses should focus on is limiting the amount of waste they produce in general, which is most easily done by having businesses focus on recycling what waste they can, to minimise the amount that they have to remove.

Failing to do this won’t only go against the Duty of Care’s goal of companies taking responsibility for their waste, but it will also affect the business’ public image and make the costs of waste removal a lot higher than they could be with a little thought.

According to, the waste legislation has the current target of reducing construction waste by 70% through finding ways to renew them.


How to dispose of certain wastes

To not go against the requirements of the Duty of Care, it’s important to first know the best way to dispose of wastes of certain categories.

Controlled waste along the lines of construction and hazardous waste is usually not recyclable. To dispose of it properly, you will have to do one or more of the following:

  • Store it safely on site
  • Have a registered waste carrier transport it off the site
  • Dispose of it at a licensed facility
  • Have a valid waste transfer note or consignment note to go along with the waste
  • Dispose it of in accordance to its placement on the waste hierarchy

The movement of waste should have a record kept for two years, or three years if hazardous. If the yearly amount of hazardous waste you produce is more than 500kg, you will have to register as a hazardous waste producer as well. Dangerous waste such as flammables and asbestos are transported under the “Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations (2009)”.

Any treatment of waste need to be covered by an environmental permit. Storing the waste on-site away from anything else in preparation for collection can be covered by an exemption, but will require the waste remain on the site it was produced until the time of collection.


Environment Agency Sanctions

If your company makes any mistakes that could affect the environment in a negative way, you will be contacted by the Environment Agency. This may not be too much to worry about depending on the severity though. In the case of it being your first instance, they’ll merely give you advice on how to best fix the problem and guide you through it. You may suffer some repercussions, but none that should prove too damaging. These include:

  • Warnings for your business
  • Enforcement/prohibition notices
  • Fixed penalty notices
  • Formal cautions

If this is a problem that can’t be solved effectively, however, this is where you need to worry.

They may deem imposing civil or criminal sanctions on you if the damage is too severe. These include:

  • Suspensions or revoking of environmental permits
  • Require additional conditions of the permits you file
  • Impose additional license conditions
  • Apply for an injunction

In the case of an injunction, this will mean your business will face a court order to either stop one of your activities, or have it take another action. In the most severe cases, the Environment Agency will take you or your business to a criminal court for prosecution.

131 successful prosecutions took place in England from 2012-13 according to the Environment Agency’s statistics, with 5 prison sentences, 15 suspended sentences, 52 formal cautions and 116 fines. The fines added up to a total of £827,940. A quick calculation shows the average fine as £7,000+, something that can easily be the downfall for smaller businesses.

The highest fine during that time span was £262,500, an amount that should strike fear in a lot of even large businesses.


Health and Safety concerns

Another group that can clamp down on you if mishandling waste are the Health and Safety Executives. An executive will usually investigate any incident reported to have a negative effect on the health of workers or the nearby public. If this happens, the range of consequences include:

  • Provide you a notice
  • Withdraw approval of certain company practices
  • Offer a license with conditions or exemptions
  • Issue a caution
  • Prosecute you

In the most extreme case of negligence, company manslaughter leading to an employee’s death, a company was fined £500,000 in 2014. Though this is obviously the most extreme case of neglect, it is indeed a wake-up call to all company owners that this can’t be swept under the rug.


The Aftermath of Non-Compliance

Say you have the money or skilled lawyers to brush aside fines or even escape prosecution. This is a victory, but you won’t be out of the woods yet. The publicity of this event will affect your reputation and public image. Boycotts and employee mutinies are bound to happen, and the company won’t ever have the clean name it once had.

It won’t only be the company’s name that takes damage from this, but those responsible too.

So, what’s the solution to all this? As it’s difficult to moderate the whole company yourself, it’s best to nominate health and safety supervisors to keep track of all that goes on when it comes to company labour. Just remember to always update them when necessary and work to fix any concerns they find.

If not nominating a compliance officer or team, you could otherwise employ a third party such as a waste management team who will provide both manual and technical solutions to your problems to make sure they get fixed permanently.

If one thing has been made clear, it’s that you don’t want to ignore how your waste is handled. If you do, you won’t only be wasting materials, but money, time and your very livelihood.


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