What Is The Environmental Protection Act?

If you have a business, you must know the ins and outs of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990. This act covers all businesses’ legal responsibilities concerning waste management, including waste storage, treatment, and disposal. 

However, the EPA 1990 has 9 parts with over 160 sections, so there’s a lot to cover. In this guide, we break down all you need to know about the Environmental Protection Act, helping you navigate this important statute bit by bit. 

What is the Environmental Protection Act?

The Environmental Protection Act is the most important statute covering waste management. It outlines the responsibilities of businesses and people in England, Wales, and Scotland, including how to store and dispose of waste safely without compromising human health or the environment. 

Waste in this statute is labelled as controlled waste. This includes any household, industrial, or commercial waste. 

What Does Each Section of the EPA 1990 Mean?

There are 9 sections of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Each section covers a different waste topic that businesses must consider if applicable. These sections include:

  • Part 1: Integrated Pollution Control and Air Pollution Control by Local Authorities 
  • Part 2: Waste on Land and Contaminated Land 
  • Part 3: Statutory Nuisances and Clean Air 
  • Part 4: Litter Etc
  • Part 5: Amendment of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 
  • Part 6: Genetically Modified Organisms 
  • Part 7: Nature Conservation in Great Britain and Countryside Matters in Wales 
  • Part 8: Miscellaneous (e.g. sea pollution and dog control)
  • Part 9: General (e.g. general offences, offences by corporate bodies, and service of notices). 

The Main Points of the Environmental Protection Act

Given the length of the EPA 1990, businesses should focus on the parts that are most relevant to them. Here, we have summarised the main takeaways from the 1990 Environmental Protection Act to get you started.

  • Waste must be disposed of safely, without harming human health or polluting the environment. 
  • Sections 33 and 34 are the most important parts to read up on. These sections focus on the disposal and treatment of waste as well as a business’s duty of care. 
  • It is an offence to treat, keep or dispose of waste incorrectly, as it can harm human health.
  • Waste cannot be disposed of anywhere. It must be taken to a licensed facility. 
  • Any controlled waste must be disposed of by waste management license holders. 
  • Businesses have to register with a national environment regulator to gain their waste management license. 
  • Punishments for not following the act can include fines, court hearings, and even prison.  

Key Sections of the Environmental Protection Act

Of all the sections in the Environmental Protection Act, Sections 33 and 34 apply the most to businesses that produce waste. These two sections cover the management of waste and a business's duty of care. 

Section 33 - Prohibition on unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal, etc. of waste.

This section focuses on the incorrect disposal and treatment of waste that can harm human health or pollute the environment. It also details the penalties associated with breaking these rules. 

It is crucial that businesses understand the incorrect methods of handling waste, as this can prevent them from making these mistakes. Examples of incorrect waste handling include depositing waste on land, also known as fly-tipping, causing environmental pollution, and keeping and disposing of waste without a waste management license. 

Hazardous Waste

If your business commonly handles hazardous waste, section 33 details how you should handle and dispose of it. Sharps are included in hazardous waste because they can harm humans if not disposed of correctly. 

For more information about sharps disposal, take a look at our Complete Guide to Sharps Disposal

Section 34 - Duty of Care Etc as Respects Waste

In other words, section 34 is the waste duty of care code of practice. This section details the procedures you must follow as a business to ensure the safety of everyone and the environment. As a business, you have a responsibility to your customers and those around you to handle waste with care so as not to injure those around you or the environment. 

The main obligations of a business are to: 

  • Only use licensed waste carriers to collect your waste.
  • Keep receipts and proper paperwork related to waste disposal for at least two years for your records.
  • Store business waste safely and securely to avoid harming people and animals and minimise the risk of pollution in the environment. 
  • Separate commercial waste from domestic waste. Taking commercial waste home is a breach of the EPA 1990. 

The Fines and Penalties of EPA 1990

If you do not comply with the rules and regulations of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, you may find yourself facing fines, court hearings, or even prison time. For example, if you do not follow the rules as laid out in section 33, you may face unlimited fines or a maximum custodial sentence of up to 5 years. 

It must be noted that if this is your first offence, you will receive a warning and an on-the-spot fine of £300. Any further offences could lead to a court hearing. Therefore, it is recommended that you read the Environmental Protection Act 1990 carefully so as not to get caught out. 

Ensure You Are Compliant with Woosh 

Following the Environmental Protection Act is easy with Woosh! We have a range of waste disposal services that allow you to have peace of mind that your waste is being handled according to this act. From sharps waste disposal to sanitary bins, we have the tools you need to comply with the EPA 1990. For more information on the services we offer, get in touch with us today! 

The Environmental Protection Act FAQs

What does the Environmental Protection Act do?

The Environmental Protection Act covers waste management and land, air, and water pollution. This act sets out the responsibilities of businesses and people in England, Scotland, and Wales, including properly storing, treating, and disposing of all waste. 

Who is responsible for the Environmental Protection Act 1990?

The Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales in Wales, and SEPA in Scotland are responsible for regulating the EPA 1990. Local authorities' environmental protection departments then enforce these rules. 

How does the Environmental Protection Act 1990 affect businesses?

As a business, you have a duty of care to your customers and those around you. The waste duty of care code of practice is highlighted in section 34 of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act 1990 and details the practices businesses should ensure they conduct to comply with this act. Proper handling of waste includes storing your commercial waste separately from domestic waste and only using licensed waste management companies to collect the waste. 

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