LGA Response to Defra consultation on the introduction of mandatory waste tracking

We are seeking assurances from Defra that the new waste tracking system will be an effective replacement for the outdated and cumbersome Waste Data Flow data entry system for councils. Waste Data Flow is not fit for purpose in supporting an accurate EPR payment system, although it will need to operate until such time as the new system is ready. This may be an opportunity to streamline data systems and reduce the burden on councils.


About the Local Government Association (LGA)

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.

Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

Key messages

(a) The proposals for mandatory digital waste tracking will be applied to local authorities and the implementation will follow on from other reforms to waste and recycling services, such as the reform of Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging (EPR). We are seeking assurances from Defra that the new waste tracking system will be an effective replacement for the outdated and cumbersome Waste Data Flow data entry system for councils. Waste Data Flow is not fit for purpose in supporting an accurate EPR payment system, although it will need to operate until such time as the new system is ready. This may be an opportunity to streamline data systems and reduce the burden on councils.

(b) Enforcement of these proposals needs to be properly thought out and funded. The regulators must be properly resourced to carry out enforcement action, and it must be clear how this is funded. We seek reassurance from Defra that this would not take resources away from other enforcement activity, for example action against large scale fly-tipping.

(c) The current paper-based waste tracking system is open to abuse, and this is hampering efforts to tackle the blight of waste crime. It is time to move to a digital waste tracking system and we support this action.

(d) Defra’s approach to mandatory waste tracking must be robust enough to discourage the criminals but avoid placing excessive data tracking requirements on local authorities and responsible private waste businesses.

(e) These proposals, along with the reforms to the regulation of waste carriers, brokers and dealers, are intended to tackle persistent waste crime such as fly-tipping. Defra should go further and consider other measures. Councils will use their powers to prosecute criminal gangs who are making easy money out of fly-tipping but the burden of proof is high, and offenders are often let off with paltry fines that are little more than a slap on the wrist. We need an urgent review of sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping.

Mandatory waste tracking – answers to the consultation questions

Questions 1-6 relates to applicant details

Question 7: Do you agree or disagree with the waste types we are proposing to be tracked? We agree that where household waste is collected by local authorities it should not be tracked electronically. Mandatory tracking should focus on the parts of the waste system most likely to attract criminal activity. Tracking waste at the individual household level would require a significant investment in new technology.

Defra has set out the next steps for the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging material and we are disappointed that producers will not have to pay councils for the cost of clearing up litter. This leaves councils funding litter clear up costs out of already stretched local budgets. We urge Defra to consider littering as a type of waste crime and ensure that it is treated seriously within the waste and resources strategy.

Question 8: Do you agree or disagree with our proposals for which waste activities will be recorded in the waste tracking service?

Agree

Question 9: Do you agree or disagree with our proposals for when waste tracking will not be required?

There is not enough detail for us to be able to answer this question. The proposal needs further development and testing with councils and other organisations involved in re-use and recycling activities.

Question 10: Do you have any views about how we should incorporate waste activities conducted under Non-Waste Framework Directive exemptions, Low Risk Waste Positions and Regulatory Position Statements into the waste tracking service?

The examples given in the consultation document are low risk situations where it is unlikely that criminal activity would take place. We agree that in these situations the specified activities should be exempt from the need to provide further information.

Question 11: Do you agree or disagree with our proposals to remove the requirement to submit information or waste data returns as listed, once the waste tracking service is live?

Local authorities should not be required to enter the same data in duplicate systems. This is not an acceptable use of limited staff resources. We agree with the removal of the proposed list of reporting requirements.

We welcome an early conversation with Defra on local authority data to ensure a smooth transition between systems. We must ensure that systems are future proofed to avoid a situation where councils are required to enter data into multiple systems for EPR, waste tracking and Defra statistics. It would be helpful to understand from Defra whether the Waste Dataflow system will become redundant once the new system of waste tracking is in place.

Question 12: Do you agree or disagree with the information recording proposals in Table 1.

Information recording proposals

 

Information

LGA  view

a)

A system-generated unique identifier

Agree

b)

Details of the person who classified the waste

Disagree – not necessary

c)

Details about the destination for all waste movements, including the type of authorisation held

Agree. There should be a way for councils to access this information, so they can be transparent with residents on the destination of household waste

d)

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code

Agree

e)

Details of rejected or quarantined loads

Yes, if this can be done with placing additional burdens on local authorities

f)

Details of waste treatment

Yes, but this needs testing to ensure that it can be done in practice

g)

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) identification

Basic information on POPs would be helpful

h)

Details of end of waste products and materials produced

No view – it is unclear what is intended

i)

Onward destination of end of waste products or materials

Yes, this would be useful

Question 13: Persistent Organic Pollutants – how much information about POPs do you think should be recorded in the service?

It would be helpful to include basic level information about POPs. Requiring further information is an additional burden and there is no clear reason for making this a mandatory requirement.

Question 14: Is there any other information related to waste management that you think should be recorded in a new digital waste tracking service?

No

Question 15-21 on recording treatment, product details and dangerous goods

We do not have a view on these questions.

Q22) If you produce, manage or handle waste in any way, were you aware of your duty to apply the waste hierarchy prior to reading this consultation? Yes, councils are aware of their duties to follow the waste hierarchy.

Q23) Do you think waste holders including producers should record their compliance with the application of the waste hierarchy in the Waste Tracking service We would like to understand whether this has made a difference in those parts of the UK that require this information.

Data recording by itself is unlikely to have an impact on producers. Other measures, such as extended producer responsibility schemes, are more likely to change the way products and designed and treated at the end of their life.

Questions 24-40 on data entry and information requirements

The LGA does not have a view on these questions.

Q41) Do you agree or disagree with the proposed level of access to information for each of the different types of users as set out in Table 4?

d) local authorities – agree

e) wider public and interested parties – agree

Q42) Do you agree or disagree that waste producers should be able to see information about the end fate of their waste?

Agree. We would be happy to discuss this further with Defra.

Questions 43-45 on data protection

The LGA does not have a view on these questions.

Q46) Do you agree or disagree with the proposed offences and associated enforcement options as set out?

Dealing with waste crime takes a range of tools and approaches including enforcement. Penalties must be strong enough to ensure compliance with waste tracking obligations. The regulators must be properly resourced to carry out enforcement action, and it must be clear how this is funded. We seek reassurance from Defra that this would not take resources away from other enforcement activity, for example action against large scale fly-tipping.

We agree with the proposed offences and enforcement options.

Q47) Do you think there should be a maximum limit for variable monetary penalties set out in legislation?

No. We support an approach that allows the regulator to set an amount according to a set of factors set out in regulations.

Q48) Do you agree or disagree with our proposed functions for environmental regulators?

We support the list of proposed functions.

Q49) Do you think costs relating to the investigation of, and enforcement action taken against, those not complying with the requirements of waste tracking should be recoverable through the fees and charges for users of the waste tracking service?

It is not normally the case that the cost of the actions listed in Question 49 are recouped through fees and charges. There is no explanation of why there should be an exception for enforcement of mandatory waste tracking. This may set a precedent and therefore we are not in support.

Charging

Once the waste tracking system goes live the costs of operation and maintenance will be met by service users. We need clarity on whether local authorities are expected to contribute to the costs and how much that might be. A complex system of tracking would have an overhead cost in the amount of staff needed to compete the data entry tasks.

The service charge would be a new financial burden on councils.

Contact

Hilary Tanner, Adviser, Local Government Association

Email: hilary.tanner@local.gov.uk