News

New Guidance for Pollution Prevention (GPP) has been produced, which is aimed at all breweries and distilleries, but mainly those defined as "Craft" or "Micro".

Applying to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it provides an overview of the environmental legislation that may need to be complied with and is particularly relevant to those who do not have dedicated staff specialising in environmental legislation.

It is divided up into the following sections:

Purchasing goods and services

This covers the benefits of buying:

  • sustainable goods and services;
  • products with environmental labels, such as the EU Ecolabel.

Water use and efficiency

This section examines the differences between a source of good quality, clean water for the brewing or distilling process and water for cooling purposes.

It also covers:

  • water abstraction;
  • applying for an abstraction authorisation;
  • water quality;
  • discharges of cooling water;
  • minimising water use and choosing water efficient equipment.

Waste

The section on waste provides information on:

  • solid wastes, exempt wastes and liquid wastes;
  • the Duty of Care;
  • following the waste hierarchy;
  • making sure your waste is collected by a waste contractor;
  • your options for managing by-products and waste, including:
    • use as animal feed,
    • land spreading,
    • composting,
    • burning for heat and power,
    • discharges to sewers,
    • discharges to water after treatment,
    • anaerobic digestion;
  • hazardous/special waste, including storing and moving it.

Energy use

Along with guidance on whether you need to comply with the Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS), information is also provided on:

  • reducing your energy use;
  • purchasing energy efficient equipment;
  • buying or generating green energy.

Transport

Your business's transport use can have a significant impact on the environment. This section looks at how you can help reduce this by planning how your business makes and receives deliveries.

This includes:

  • reducing the number of deliveries;
  • using fuel efficient vehicles;
  • considering electric vehicles;
  • training delivery drivers and helping them develop more efficient driving techniques.

Packaging

This section stresses the importance of how the design, use and disposal of packaging throughout the supply chain can affect both income and the environment.

It covers:

  • packaging design;
  • using recycled materials;
  • choosing reusable containers.

Nuisance

Support is provided on what a nuisance is, which can occur from:

  • common law nuisances;
  • statutory nuisances;
  • odours;
  • waste;
  • transport.

On-site pollution prevention

This section covers:

  • oil and fuel storage on-site;
  • the good practice measure of having a pollution incident response plan, so all staff know what to do in the event of a spill.

For more information, see:

DB Cargo (UK) has been fined £2.7m after a teenage boy suffered life-changing injuries while playing on the company's railway marshalling land in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found DB Cargo guilty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to secure land, also known as Tyne Yard, from trespassers, despite repeated warnings of the risks. The company, which denied the offence, was also ordered to pay £188,874 in costs, as well as fined an extra £33,500 for an offence of refusing to provide documentation at request by ORR inspectors.

On 14 June 2014 two girls aged 13 and two boys aged 11 and 13 entered Tyne Yard to visit a disused signal box known locally as the "haunted house". Two boys tried to climb on to the roof of a stationary wagon, one of 22 that made up the train what was due to leave that day.

The 13-year-old boy who managed to reach the roof of the wagon, went too close to a 25,000-volt overhead line causing an electrical arc that threw him off the carriage and resulted in him losing part of both legs and seven fingers. The other boy sustained minor burns.

During the investigation, the inspectors found no credible obstacles in place to stop people entering the yard, no adequate security patrol or even signage deterring trespassers.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the company was aware of the trespassing risks as early as 2011 and the presence of graffiti in the marshalling yard indicated people were gaining entry. Any warning signs fixed to the signal box were either indistinct or torn down.

A site report conducted in January 2013 indicated that the signal box "needs to be demolished asap" due to the risk it posed. Another report conducted two months later had a comment "need to get some wire fencing around the building asap".

A security patrol set up by the company focused on securing the signal box rather than the boundaries of the property and operated only between 8pm and 8am, despite evidence that people were gaining access at other times during the day. 

After the trial, Ian Prosser who is the Chief Inspector of Railways said: "Out thoughts remain with the victim who suffered such awful injuries, the other children injured and traumatised, and also their families and friends who have been deeply affected by this harrowing incident.

"We welcome the sentence, which clearly indicates the seriousness with which this offence is viewed and we expect DB Cargo and the rail industry as a whole to look very hard at their sites and make sure they are doing everything possible to ensure they are secure.

"This incident is a reminder to adults and children that railway sites can have many dangers, often not obvious, and that trespassing on railway premises can lead to serious injuries".

A Co. Armagh electrical company was fined £50,000 on 21 March 2019 for a number of failings which resulted in the death of one of its employees at their site in Lurgan.

On the day of the accident a telescopic handler, which was on hire, was used for offloading a pallet from the lorry by an untrained member of staff. It toppled a load over striking Mr Jonathan Peden, who suffered fatal injuries.

The palletised load which weighted over 2 tonnes was not secured, resulting in the lifting robot being unstable, which then resulted in the whole load falling from the forks of a telescopic handler during the operation. The driver of the lorry also sustained minor injuries when he was struck by the falling load.

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) prosecuted the electrical firm for failing to protect its employees as well as those not in its employment.

Alan Little Ltd. pleaded guilty for breaching Articles 4(1) and 5(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1978/1039, for which he was fined £45,000 and £5000 respectively.

HSENI Inspector Kyle Carrick said: "Our thoughts are with the Peden family today. Jonathan's tragic death could have been avoided if his employer had properly considered the risks associated with this unloading activity.

"Careful consideration of the risks is vital to ensure practical and often simple measures are put in place to prevent such incidents from occurring.

"Load stability and security are important factors to consider, as is operator training, which is a legal requirement for anyone operating lift trucks, including telescopic handlers.

"Pedestrians and other people who are not directly involved in loading or unloading operations should always be kept clear of dangerous lifting activities."

For more information, see the:

  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 1999/304.

It was confirmed in March that a consultation regarding the revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), to add a paragraph relating to shale fracking, was unlawful.

The claimant, a supporter of Talk Fracking, challenged the adoption in July 2018 by the defendant Secretary of State for Housing and Communities.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change had commissioned and published a 2013 report concerning the likely potential greenhouse gas emissions from the production of shale gas, and the compatibility of the use of shale gas with the UK's climate change target. The report supported the view that the use of shale gas would be consistent with the Government's targets for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, and perform better than alternatives such as coal and liquefied gas. This was further supported in a written ministerial statement in 2015.

In 2017, Talk Fracking published its own report containing detailed criticisms of the science underpinning the Government's conclusions. In 2018 the defendant published consultation proposals in relation to changes to the NPPF. Talk Fracking responded with a consultation, providing scientific evidence that the climate impact of fracking had been underestimated. The final version of NPPF was published in July 2018, recommending the recognition of the benefits of shale gas and for policies to facilitate exploration and extraction.

The claimant argued the defendant had failed to carry out a lawful consultation exercise because the policy had already been formulated in the written ministerial statement. Also that the defendant had unlawfully failed to take into account scientific and technical evidence, and had failed to give effect to the Government's obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act 2008. The defendant stated that all that was done was the copying across from the written ministerial statement into the NPPF, and there was never an intention to revisit or re-examine the validity of the policy.

In regards to the consultation the Judge was "unable to accept that a reasonable reader, or a reasonable member of the public, would have been clear" that the consultation was not asking for submissions regarding the paragraph. It was confirmed the consultation exercise breached common law requirements, and was unfair and unlawful. 

The Judge also confirmed the defendant had unlawfully left out of account obvious material considerations relevant to the decision. It was concluded both arguments regarding the consultation process and the evidence provided "were properly arguable, and for the reasons I have given, made out".

However it was held that the challenge regarding the defendants failure to give effect to the Climate Change Act 2008 was unarguable, as nothing in the revisions had altered the Government's requirement to satisfy its requirements.

Due to this the Judge permitted further time for parties to consider the implications of the conclusions and to make further submissions in relation to the appropriate relief.

EU votes to ban single-use plastic
Published: 02 Apr 2019

The European Parliament has voted, by a significant margin, to ban single-use plastics by 2021. The ban, backed by a 560-35 vote, will see the end of plastics such as straws, knives, forks, earbuds and plates. The ban will also include drinks containers made of expanded polystyrene and all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

At the time of writing, it is not yet clear how this will apply to the UK due to the uncertainty around the Brexit process. If the UK agrees to an extended transition period in its withdrawal from the EU, we would be party to this arrangement and would have to follow the laws that will be put in place regarding the plastics. However, given that Environment Secretary Michael Gove has, in the recent past, given his support to cutting single-use plastics, the UK could end up with a similar strategy regardless of how Brexit is resolved.

The new Directive

The Single-Use Plastics Directive will set out a series of measures aimed at tackling single-use plastic, including:

  • a ban on certain single-use plastic products where there are alternatives available on the market;
  • measures to reduce consumption of food containers and cups made of plastic;
  • extended producer responsibility schemes aimed at covering the cost to clean up litter, applied to products such as cigarette filters and fishing gear;
  • a 77% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2025, rising to 90% in 2029;
  • the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as a target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles from 2025, rising to 30% in 2030.

Frans Timmermans, a European Commission vice-president, said, "Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world."

Links with other legislation

With specific objectives and measures to tackle the most littered single use plastics and fishing gear containing plastic, the new Directive will complement existing legislation on:

  • waste, by establishing extended producer responsibility schemes in order to cover the costs of prevention of littering and waste management, including clean-up of litter single-use plastics products;
  • marine environmental policy, to ensure that quantities and composition of marine litter do not cause harm to marine or coastal environments;
  • urban waste-water treatment, to help improve storm water overflows capture and treatment, as well as deal with flushed items such as plastic cotton bud sticks and sanitary applications;
  • port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues, to introduce measures for the improved management of waste fishing gear containing plastic returned to shore and its financing;
  • fisheries control, to strengthen provisions for reporting on lost gear, and retrieving lost gear.

The new Directive is also part of an overall integrated and consistent European approach to tackle all sources of plastic marine litter as detailed in the EU Plastics Strategy, which aims to develop a regulatory framework for plastics with biodegradable properties to prevent harm to ecosystems.

For more information on this subject, see:

This month Severn Trent Water Limited was sentenced for discharging thousands of gallons of raw sewage from its sewer network onto land at Sutton Park, West Midlands.

The Company has been fined £500,000, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £50,693, and a victim surcharge of £120.

The incident occurred due to a blockage in the Company's sewer system within Sutton Park.

In November 2013 the Sutton Park Visitor Centre received a report of a sewage smell and that a sewer was discharging into the Longmoor Valley. Due to poor light, the location of the incident was not identified until a park ranger identified a large amount of sewage flowing from a manhole cover, spreading across the surrounding area, the next day.

Officers from Natural England attended and mapped the extent of the damage. They found that the sewage had spread across an area of 1.15 hectares. Sewage had also entered a nearby ditch and travelled 700 metres into the Longmoor Brook to the Longmoor Pool within the Park.

Severn Trent Water Ltd liaised with Natural England, the Environment Agency, Birmingham City Council and Historic England to produce a plan to remediate the site. Soil and plants had to be scraped up across the affected area to stop the spread of sewage contamination. Around 0.65 hectares of rare and sensitive plants were destroyed. Representatives from Natural England expressed concern with the progress and efficiency of the clean-up operation, which concluded in May 2014.

The Judge recognised that Sutton Park is an environmentally sensitive area, and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The Judge noted that the clean-up operation had been slow and poorly managed, but that the Company had ultimately taken all necessary steps to remediate the site and that it had made a long term commitment to restoring the affected area.

In mitigation, the Court noted the Company's overall environmental record and set of values, that the Company had accepted responsibility for the incident, and that it was not a commercially motivated offence.

The Environment Agency recognised an improvement in Severn Trent Water Limited's overall environmental compliance since the incident, and as an industry leading company in the Environment Performance Assessment in 2017.

Emma Johnson, Natural England's Area Manager for the West Midlands noted that the incident "is among the worst damage to a SSSI that Natural England have witnessed". She noted that Natural England have worked closely with the Environment Agency and Severn Trent to rectify the issues and hopes to do so in the future to prevent future spills.

Marc Lidderth, Area Environment Manager for the Environment Agency stated, "this case demonstrates how partners work together to share information and advice to protect the environment. It also highlights the importance of reporting environmental damage or pollution quickly, and members of the public can do this by calling the Environment Agency Incident Hotline on 0800 807660".


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