Overhauling Waste Management: Changes to Carriers, Brokers and Dealers

Systematic failures in regulating waste carriers, brokers and dealers has led to record levels of crime and is costing over half a billion pounds a year. These were the conclusions of Mike Brown, managing director of Eunomia, when in 2017 he managed to register his deceased dog Oscar as a waste carrier. The purpose of this stunt was to highlight that the lack of background checks under the current regime would allow anyone (or anyone’s pet) to register, leaving it open to exploitation by bad actors. The problem has only worsened since, with the Environment Agency estimating the cost in 2021 alone to be over £1 billion a year.

At the beginning of 2022, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) consulted on its plans to reform the waste carriers, brokers and dealers registration system in an attempt to address some of the shortcomings that Mike Brown had exposed in 2017. This consultation proposed moving the regime from a registration to a permit-based system under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) and proposed enhanced background checks needed to operate as a waste carrier, broker or dealer. On the 21st of October 2023, the Governments response to this consultation was published.

This response confirmed that changes to the waste carriers, brokers and dealers regime would be made to replace the current registrations with permitting rules, and simplify the current terminology that is used under the regime.

Changes to terminology

The current regime distinguishes between waste carriers, waste brokers and waste dealers; distinctions that have caused some confusion. These are going to be replaced with 3 new designations:

  • Waste controller – those who buy or sell waste, and those who organise waste collection, transportation, end destination or the recovery / disposal of waste on behalf of others;
  • Waste transporter – those instructed by a controller to move waste between locations; and
  • Combined waste controller-transporter – those who conduct the activities of a waste controller but also collect and transport the waste.

Permit changes

The existing two-tier registration system for waste carriers is going to be replaced with a ‘standard rules’ environmental permit or a registered exemption under the EPR. It is outlined in the Government publication that they plan to introduce the following three permit types:

  • waste controller only permit;
  • waste transporter only permit;
  • waste controller and transporter permit.

These permits will be differentiated with the addition of tiers that take into consideration the type and volume of waste carried. This will include four levels of risk, with additional charges and permit conditions reflecting the risk level of the waste. The details of these permits and their conditions will be outlined in future consultations.

All 3 of the newly proposed permits will require a single, up-front payment. The payment will cover the application fee and a subsistence fee to cover compliance costs. If the application is unsuccessful then the subsistence fee will be refunded. A renewal fee will be charged after 3 years that also includes a subsistence fee.

Registered and non-registered exemptions will still be available, exempt activities can be found here.

Technical competence

A significant change to bringing the current regime into line with the EPR is the duty to demonstrate technical competence for permitted activities. This will mean that before waste controllers or transporters can obtain one of the permits outlined above, they must satisfy the Environment Agency that they can meet both the conditions of the permit being applied for and have the appropriate level of technical competence required. When implemented, this should prevent inadequate applications, such as those made on behalf of Oscar the dog, from being granted.

Get ready for the new waste system

As it stands, when the new system goes live, those with an existing upper-tier registration will be required to apply for the relevant permit when their registration is due for renewal. Those with an existing lower-tier registration will be required to apply for any permits that they require within 12 months, after which their registration will have expired.

The coming changes are still very much in the early stages, with alterations following additional consultations likely and currently no timeline for when the new system will go live. However, it is clear that significant changes in the way we handle and transport waste are on the horizon.