What Does Duty of Care Mean?

What Does Duty of Care Mean?

When we discuss waste, the term Duty of Care comes up a lot, but what does it mean?  This blog will explain all.

Who does Duty of Care apply to?

Duty of Care legislation aims to ensure that waste is managed safely and in a way that protects human health and the environment.  Set out under section 34(7) of the Environmental Protection Act, it applies if you import, produce, carry, keep, treat or dispose of waste that you have control of in England and Wales.  It also applies to anyone who arranges those things with waste as a dealer or a broker.  This duty is regulated by the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales and Local Authorities.  Failure to comply is an offence and there is no upper limit on the courts’ power to fine an offender.

What is waste?

Duty of care applies to waste, but what is that?  The requirements apply to household, industrial and commercial waste, otherwise called controlled waste.  Waste is “any substance or object that the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard”.  Discarding applies to disposal and recovery, including recycling and other treatment.

How long does Duty of Care Last?

You are responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensuring that waste is managed correctly from when you produce it to its final disposal or recovery.  Even after the waste leaves your possession, you still have an obligation to ensure it is dealt with legally.

How can I demonstrate Duty of Care?

You will need to demonstrate that you are responsible for your waste at all stages – starting with when you produce it.  You should segregate waste appropriately (hazardous from non-hazardous at a minimum) and ensure it is stored correctly so that it cannot escape.

When waste leaves your site, you need to make sure that your contractors can legally carry it, by checking their waste carriers licence.  Every transfer of waste should be accompanied by a written description (by using a waste transfer note or hazardous waste consignment note) that you must have a copy of and keep on file.  You must also find out where your waste is being taken to and make sure they are authorised to accept the waste.

If you have any concerns over your waste being handled correctly, you may need to carry out additional checks.  For example, you may ask for evidence that your waste arrived at the intended destination, or you may even follow a waste carrier to ensure it is handled correctly.

Duty of Care is the legal responsibility placed on all waste holders to ensure that waste is dealt with safely and legally.  The responsibility extends beyond the waste leaving site and you must be able to demonstrate you have taken all reasonable actions to ensure your waste is dealt with correctly all along the chain to disposal or recovery.  Check out our blog next week to find out specifically about waste carriers licences.