Less than a third of small and medium sized businesses are aware of new rules on handling hazardous waste according to a new figures revealed today (Monday) by the Environment Agency.
The findings, which are the result of a survey of more than 1000 small and medium sized businesses in England and Wales found that only 28 per cent of businesses interviewed knew about new hazardous waste regulations which will take effect from 16 July 2005.
The news comes as the Environment Agency sets out its priorities for enforcing the new rules. Under its enforcement policy, anyone found to be illegally dumping or deliberately trying to pass off hazardous waste as non-hazardous could face prosecution by the Environment Agency.
Under new regulations, most businesses in England and Wales that create waste falling into one of a range of categories designated as 'hazardous' need to register with the Environment Agency. Failure to do so could have serious consequences. Waste carriers will not collect waste from an unregistered producer and, ultimately, failing to register is a prosecutable offence.
Producers also need to consign their waste to properly authorised sites – which means knowing what's in the waste.
The results show a higher level of awareness in industries that are already regulated by the Environment Agency including the chemicals industry and the non-ferrous metals manufacturers. Only one in five motor vehicle service and repair garages were aware.
Liz Parkes, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “The new rules will mean that there will be more businesses producing hazardous waste. These results show that many are not aware that their waste is hazardous and must be managed very carefully.
“We have worked closely with industry, set up workshops and roadshows, and published guidance to raise awareness of the changes so everyone should be aware that these rules are coming. Anyone who wants more information can call our helpline or log onto our website.
“With regards to enforcement, we will be targeting our routine checks where we can have the greatest impact. We will continue to come down hard on anyone that knowingly flouts the rules.”