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The Environmental Protection Act

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The Environmental Protection Act relates to the structure and authority for waste management, and intends to strengthen pollution controls and support enforcement with heavier penalties. Previously there had been separate environmental regulation of air, water and land pollution, however this act looks at all three. It applies to England, Wales and Scotland, and is split into 7 parts.

Sustainable resources = “Resources harvested in such a way that it is not depleted or permanently damaged” e.g. agriculture.

Carbon footprint = “The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of activities of a particular individual, organisation or community”.

Controlled waste = Refers to household, industrial and commercial waste.

Household/domestic waste = Solid waste that originates from private homes.

Commercial waste = Waste from premises used mainly for the purposes of a trade or business, but can also be from premises used for the purpose of sport, recreation, education or entertainment.

Industrial waste = Waste material generated by factories and industrial plants.

Fixed penalty notice = essentially a fine with the option for the recipient to opt for the matter to be dealt with in court as opposed to paying the fine. However, if the recipient neither pays the fine nor opts for a court hearing in the time specified then the fine may increase by 50%. This system was originally introduced to deal with minor parking offences and were designed to reduce paperwork for police and council offices by allowing anti-social behaviour to be dealt with on the spot.

Contaminated Land = any land which appears to the local authority to be in such a condition that significant harm is being caused (or there is the possibility for such harm to be caused), or significant pollution of the water environment is being caused (or there is the possibility for such pollution to be caused).

Statutory Nuisance = something that affects a person’s health or causes disturbance to them in their property. Examples include: Smoke, fumes, gases, dust, steam, smell or noise emitted from premises that is considered to be harmful to health or a nuisance. Any accumulation or deposit that is considered to be harmful to health or a nuisance. Any animal kept in such a place or manner that is considered to be harmful to health or a nuisance.

Some exclusions are made; including contaminated land, activities of the armed forces, certain smoke and dark smoke, traffic and demonstrations. Part I – Prescribed processes and substances:

Under this part:

The Secretary of State can authorize and set limits on processes and substances in respect of emissions into the environment. Operation of a prescribed process is prohibited without approval, and criminal sanctions are implemented against offenders. Applications to operate a prescribed process must be made to the enforcing authority. The application must be in writing and must contain details of the applicant, location information of the process and/or release and full details of the process and/or release or the prescribed substance(s). The enforcing authority can refuse authorisation or give it subject to conditions. Once granted, the authorisation can be transferred (e.g. to someone overtaking the process) provided that the enforcing authority is notified. The enforcing authority can revoke authorisation or vary its conditions, or can issue an enforcement/prohibition notice on a non-compliant operator, violations of which may lead to criminal penalties such as fines or imprisonment. The operator can apply to have the conditions varied, and can appeal a decision about the issue of authorisation, conditions, enforcement or prohibition to the Secretary of State – who may hold a hearing or enquiry. Authorisation was originally in the hands of HM Inspectorate of Pollution and local authorities, but as of 1996 became the responsibility of the Environmental Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). Enforcing authorities must provide public information on applications, authorisations and enforcement so long as confidentiality and national security are protected.

Part II – Disposal of controlled waste on land:

Under this part:

No person may “treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health”. Specifically; except in the case of domestic household waste treated/kept/disposed of on the premises, no person may deposit (or knowingly permit the deposit of) controlled waste in or on any land or by means of any mobile plant without a waste management licence. In other words, you need a waste management licence to: Operate a landfill.Store other people’s waste.Treat waste.Use a mobile plant.Carry out recycling.Carry out the final disposal of waste.

Waste management licenses are issued by waste management authorities and may be subject to conditions – which may be decided by the Secretary of State. Licences are transferable, and decisions to refuse a licence or conditions granted thereon may be appealed to the Secretary of State. A duty of care is given to “any person who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste, or as a broker has control of such waste” to ensure that:

All rules and regulations relating to waste are upheld. No waste escapes from their control. Any transfer of waste is made only to an authorised person, and that a written description of the waste is also transferred to ensure that all rules or regulations relating to the waste are upheld. All transfers must also be accompanied by a transfer note – copies of which must be kept for a period of two years, and must be made available to the enforcement authority.

In terms of domestic waste, an occupier must take reasonable steps to ensure that any transfer of waste is only made to an authorised authority; however they are not responsible for any of the other duties listed above. Waste collection authorities are required to collect household waste; unless it is in an isolated location where alternative arrangements can reasonably be expected to be made. Waste collection authorities may collect commercial waste if requested, however they are not obliged to provide this service. Industrial waste will only be collected with the consent of the waste disposal authority. No charge is to be made for collecting household waste (except in the event that the Secretary of State makes regulations specifying specific collections that must be paid for), and a reasonable charge can be made for the collection of commercial waste. Waste collection authorities have the responsibility for emptying privies and cesspools, and have the power to lay pipes, sewers and other infrastructure to collect waste. Waste collected by a waste collection authority is the property of the authority. It is a crime to disturb or sort through (unless with consent) waste deposited for collection by the waste collection authority, and this can be punishable with a fine. Waste collection authorities can give a householder notice that waste must be disposed of in a specified receptacle and in a specified manner. It is a crime to fail to comply (without a reasonable excuse) to this notice, and in this event the offender may receive a fine or a fixed penalty notice. Waste collection authorities also have power over receptacles for commercial and industrial waste.

Where waste is deposited on land, authorities may give notice to the occupier to remove it. Waste collection authorities must deliver waste to waste disposal authorities (unless they intend to recycle it themselves), and waste disposal authorities must dispose of the waste and also provide facilities for householders to deposit their own waste. A disposal authority may:

Make arrangements to recycle waste.Make arrangements to use waste to produce heat or electricity.Buy or otherwise acquire waste with a view of it being recycled.Use, sell or otherwise dispose of waste, or anything produced from such waste.

A collection authority may:

Buy or otherwise acquire waste with a view to recycling it.Use, or dispose of by way of sale, waste belonging to the authority or anything produced from such waste.

A breach of any of the above is a crime and penalties for serious offences by businesses can extend to unlimited fines, imprisonment, seizure of vehicles and clean-up costs.

Part IIA – Contaminated Land

The Act does not apply to contamination from radioactivity.

Under this part:

Local authorities have a duty to periodically survey their local area, and (using guidance defined by the Secretary of State) to locate contaminated land and advise either EA or SEPA of this – who will then serve a remediation notice to the appropriate person. The appropriate person responsible for remediation work is any person/s who caused or knowingly permitted the substance/s contaminating the land. If no such person can be identified, then the present owner/occupier of the land is the appropriate person. The appropriate person is deemed responsible for remediation of other lands into which the substance/s have escaped. The appropriate person may appeal a notice within 21 days of receiving it, but ultimately it is a crime not to comply with a notice. Local authorities, EA or SEPA can perform the remedial work themselves if the appropriate person cannot be found or requests that they do so – the authority then have the discretion as to whether to make the appropriate person responsible for the costs. Local authorities, the EA and SEPA must maintain a register of notices that is publicly available; as long as confidentiality and national security are protected.

Part III – Statutory nuisances

Under this part:

Local authorities have a duty to make periodic (or in response to a complaint from the public) inspections of their area for statutory nuisances. If an offending occupier is found, the local authority must serve them with an abatement notice to cease the nuisance. The occupier can appeal the notice within 21 days of receiving it, but ultimately it is a crime not to comply with a notice, which is punishable with a fine that increases 10% for every day that the nuisance continues. If the offence is committed by an occupier of a business premises, the maximum fine is £40,000. Where the notice is not complied with, the local authority may take reasonable action to abate the nuisance themselves and recover the expenses from the occupier. Any person aggrieved by a statutory nuisance can take their complaint to court. The court can order the occupier to abate the damage and impose a fine which is, again, a crime to ignore without a reasonable excuse. In the event that the nuisance continues, the court is able to grant a warrant of entry to the local authority to ensure that there is an existing nuisance and to take any action to abate it.

Part IV – Litter

Some of the provisions of this part were repealed and superseded by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Under this part:

It is a criminal offence to leave litter, which is punishable with a fine or a fixed penalty notice. There are exceptions where the person has lawful authorisation of consent. Local authorities and central government have duties to keep roads, highways and public spaces free from litter. Members of the public who are aggrieved by litter in public places can apply for an abatement notice to order the responsible public body to carry out its duties. Public authorities also have the power to issue litter abatement notices and litter clearing notices to the occupiers of premises to order the clearing of litter. Occupiers can appeal the notice within 21 days of receiving it, however ultimately it is a crime to disobey a notice which is punishable by a fine. Local authorities can issue a street litter control notice to occupiers of premises such as food establishments, which requires them to keep the street and public areas near their premises clear of litter. Local authorities can prevent the distribution of free printed material (such as leaflets) on certain land, and offenders can receive a fine or a fixed penalty notice, along with seizure of the material. Local authorities may seize abandoned shopping/luggage trolleys and return them to their owners with a fee, or otherwise dispose of them.

Part V – Amendment of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960

Part V made a number of amendments to the Radioactive Substances Act 1960, however this was revoked under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 which consolidated the 1960 Act.

Part VI – Genetically modified organisms

Contains provisions intended to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to avoid damage to the environment which may arise from the control of genetically modified organisms. This included limitations on the import, acquisition, keeping, release or marketing of GMOs.

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The Environmental Protection Act. (2018, December 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from
“The Environmental Protection Act.” GradesFixer, 17 Dec. 2018,
The Environmental Protection Act. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
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