24 November 2022

New waste laws will help protect the planet but balanced waste management will also protect your business

We live on a planet with finite resources. But with a population that’s already hit 7 billion, and predicted to pass 10 billion by the end of the century¹, governments are working hard to ensure that we make the most of the resources we have. The waste we produce is incredibly resource-rich, so new legislation is regularly being drafted to improve the way we manage our waste streams to move us all closer to a circular economy where nothing is wasted. 

The food and drink sector accounts for just under 30%² of the world’s packaging, and food waste is responsible for around 10% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. This means that everyone delivering waste management in the hospitality industry has significant responsibilities and a wide range of regulations to contend with. We’ve prepared a quick guide to the current waste regulations and a heads up of some of the changes that might be coming in the future. 

The waste landscape across the UK 

Waste regulation is generally a devolved area. That is to say that legislatures in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can each draft their own legislation which means that regulations can differ, depending where your business is located or operates. 

Some areas of waste regulation, however, operate at a UK-wide level. These tend to relate to the core principles of waste management and those matters that rely on having a consistent approach across all of the UK’s internal markets. 

The most important one affecting you is the “Duty of Care” set out in The Environmental Protection Act 1990. This stipulates that anyone who produces, imports, keeps, stores, transports, treats or disposes of waste must take all reasonable steps to ensure that waste is managed properly. 

For most businesses, that means that you must select a certified waste collector who will let you know how best to store and present your waste, and provide you with a Waste Transfer Note after collecting your waste materials. 

Do you know what you are signing up to on your Waste Transfer Notes?

Since 2011, one of the things you confirm on each Waste Transfer Note is that you have applied the “Waste Hierarchy” to the waste you have produced. The “waste hierarchy” ranks waste management options according to what is best for the environment. The first priority is to reduce the amount of resources you use. The second is to reuse materials when possible. Third is to recycle the materials you have used. If that is not possible, then recovery is the next best option. 
Many businesses will have built the waste hierarchy into their sustainability strategies and a good waste management company will be able to advise the best options for each of your waste streams. At Olleco, we offer advice about reducing food waste, prolonging the healthy working life of cooking oils and reporting on all your waste streams in one platform as part of Olleco Total Resource Management. As well as providing the annual Waste Transfer Notes, which the law requires you to keep for two years, our service ensures your used cooking oil meets the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) requirements.

We also encourage our customers to reuse the containers their fresh oil comes in, to store and return used cooking oil. The containers can then be recycled efficiently. Used cooking oil and food waste are recovered to make biofuels, renewable energy and organic fertiliser. So, at every stage, we empower our customers to apply the waste hierarchy to maximise resource efficiency and drive down the cost of food waste management in restaurants and hospitality businesses.  

Regional variations

Each of the governments working across the UK wants to do the right thing for the planet and is keen to take policy initiatives that will help everyone to operate more sustainably. The “Carrier Bag Levy”, that has been so effective in reducing single-use plastic waste, first came into force in Wales 2011. Impressed with their results, the Scottish Government followed suit in 2014. England then introduced their own carrier bag levy in 2015 with Northern Ireland introducing a charge in 2022. But, while all nations now have a levy, the minimum charge has not always been the same. It is now 10p in England, Wales and Scotland but 25p in Northern Ireland. 

Watching what is being adopted in different nations is often a good indicator of what is likely to happen across the UK. You will also find slight differences across the different legislatures so if your business operates right across the UK there may be variations in what the law requires of you at different premises.

Interestingly, the Isle of Man’s Government has passed legislation outlawing the use of single use plastics from 2023 onwards, so that may well be something that will be adopted across the UK before long. 

Scotland the brave

Those of you operating businesses in Scotland will already be aware of the lead they have taken in tackling food waste. The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 not only made it mandatory for all businesses to recycle but also required all food and hospitality  businesses to segregate their food waste for separate collection.

Scotland also banned the use macerators to dispose of food waste to the public sewerage system and similar bans are now also in place in Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland there is now also a ban on certain single use plastics. From August 12th 2022, it has been unlawful to make or commercially supply single-use plastic items including:

  • Cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks etc)
  • Plates
  • Beverage stirrers
  • Food containers made of expanded polystyrene
  • Cups and lids made of expanded polystyrene

It is also unlawful (with limited exemptions) to commercially supply plastic straws and plastic balloon sticks.

In November 2021, the UK Environment Act passed into law that from 2023, all UK food and hospitality businesses, not already doing so, will have to separate food waste from their general waste and have it collected separately. 

It’s a move most of our customers have already made, realising that it is more cost-effective to have food waste collected for anaerobic digestion than allowing it to go to landfill where it attracts heavy taxes and generates methane - a potent greenhouse gas.

The return of deposit return

Some of you may recall the days when soft drink bottles came with a deposit that could be redeemed on their return. Well the concept is back and bigger than ever before. Scotland is about to launch a Deposit Return Scheme that will cover practically all drinks packaging. The Scheme launches in August 2023 and will affect every business in Scotland that sells or serves packaged drinks. It has been designed to reduce the rising tide of litter but also to ensure that the drinks industry recovers as much high-quality recyclable packaging as possible - reinforcing the circular economy.

Consultations have already closed for a similar scheme which is now in the pipeline for the rest of the UK nations, so it’s highly likely that your business will be returning deposits to customers for their drinks containers before too long. 

A package of new legislation designed to build the circular economy

From 2023, food businesses producing or importing packaged goods will have a new range of duties and responsibilities to ensure more of that packaging is recycled. The new Extended Producer Responsibility regulations (EPR) go significantly further than those in the past. Larger food businesses should investigate systems as they come into force.  

The laws on waste are more complex than you might think and vary across the UK. Getting them wrong can be a criminal offence with the potential for unlimited fines. This is why it is so important to work with a waste collection specialist who understands your business and industry. They will keep you on the right side of the law, keep your costs to a minimum and help keep the planet on track for a sustainable future. If you have any queries about your legal responsibilities with waste, we’d be happy to answer them and reassure you about how to do the right thing. 



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