Seeing your way through your waste paperwork trail

Emily Hare's Blog picks up on one of the challenges that come with managing waste on a daily basis; legal compliance and maintaining your audit trail.

In my last blog I discussed the wider reasons as to why it is in your interest to manage your waste so that you can get the most out of it.

I’m going to now pick up on one of the challenges that come with managing waste on a daily basis; legal compliance and maintaining your audit trail.

Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork

Through Duty of Care obligations the waste producer has the legal responsibility to be aware of what happens to your waste and to ensure it is being legally processed through the supply chain. From the day you create waste to the day it is recycled, treated or disposed of, there is at least one document for every stage of the waste’s journey which provides the audit trail you need as the waste producer.

It is this legal requirement that makes it important for you to maintain your audit trail; if you don’t have an awareness of what is happening after your waste leaves your site and it gets mixed up with illegal waste activities you can face heavy penalties from the enforcement agencies for non-compliance.

What paperwork do you need?

So what paperwork do you need to collect, it often depends on your activities, but this is a general list:

1. Waste Carriers Licenses – required to move waste and detail what waste materials are licensed to be carried

  • Does your company move any of its own waste? If so you need a lower tier license
  • Are your waste contractors registered? Ask your contractors to provide you with a copy of the upper tier licenses for your records. You can also check this on the relevant environmental agency website.

2. Waste Transfer Notes (WTNs) and Hazardous (or known as Special in Scotland) Waste Consignment Notes (HWCNs) – details what waste is being moved, how much there is, where and who it is being collected from and where, and who is collecting the waste. Every journey requires a note

  • What records do you need to keep? You should get copies of WTNs and HWCNs as the waste is transferred
  • Do you have regular waste collections of the same waste? You can have annual or season tickets to cover these

In recent years an online electronic system has been created to create and track WTNs; edoc. Edoc can be used across multiple contractors; our Recycling Services team use it for the majority of their customers with a 98% completion rate which we believe is much higher than the industry average. The four environmental agencies are developing a similar system for hazardous waste but that’s not due to be operational until 2019-2020.

3. Your site permits and exemptions – certain activities you do with your waste require you to have permits and exemptions for your own sites, such as baling some of your recycling, wood chipping and burning waste wood in biomass boilers.

4. Waste facility permits and exemptions – to recycle, treat or dispose waste, waste management companies have to be licenced by the relevant environment agency for the area they operate in (this could be all four environmental agencies if they operate across the UK).

  • What records do you need to keep? You should get a copy of the permits and exemptions for the facilities your waste goes to from your waste contractors. Once again you can check registrations on the relevant environmental agencies’ websites. In the Environment Agency website, you can pay a small fee for a copy of the permit.

Altogether this gives you the full audit trail of your waste and allows you to make sure your waste is going to a compliant site that it is being correctly treated.

Avoid these common errors in your paperwork

  1. HWCNs require the last part of the consignment note, known as part E, to be returned to the producer once the disposal has taken place. This is often something that is forgotten due the time between the waste leaving your site and the final treatment.
  2. A really simple error we see is the European Waste Classification (EWC) code the waste producer uses doesn’t match what the waste contractor uses. It’s essential that the correct code is used throughout the waste’s journey as this determines where the waste can be treated at the correctly licenced site. Using the wrong code is a non-conformance under the Duty of Care obligations.

The enforcement agencies have to authority to suspend and remove waste carriers licenses, permits and exemptions at any point, so it’s important to check this on a regular basis to avoid being caught out.

Tips to manage your audit trail

Still feel like this is a minefield? Here are some tips to help you manage your audit trail and therefore your Duty of Care obligations:

  1. Set up simple processes to log all the paperwork and to keeping it up-to-date will really help you.
  2. Create a central area to log transfer notes, licences, permits and exemptions for your contractors where staff can upload paperwork. This will prevent you having a mountain of paperwork to collate and organise. For our customers we use our Rio – Sustainability Platform to do this; users have access to their documents wherever they are providing they have Wi-Fi to log on.
  3. Set-up a monthly reminder to check the public registers and that your part Es of your HWCNs are returned from your contractors. This will help you check of your waste contractors and waste facilities.
  4. If you’re not sure what the right EWC code is speak with your waste contractor about the code they use and why. Another way to counter this is to make sure the staff on the ground understand the importance of this paperwork being accurately filled in and given over.