A complex and large body of environmental laws and obligations affect businesses. These vary according to the type of business, and it is best to seek specialist advice when considering your environmental obligations.
More generally, however, it is possible to highlight some common issues.
The Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are the main public bodies for protecting the environment, and can impose fines for non-compliance. Their websites, at www.environment-agency.gov.uk, www.sepa.org.uk, and www.ni-environment.gov.uk, respectively, contain more specific information. There is a wide range of European, national and local authority law relating to environmental obligations.
Toxic substances are subject to regulation, and businesses may need to register before using or disposing of some of these.
Businesses must not produce emissions that cause a nuisance to their neighbours, such as smoke, noise or fumes. If they do, they may be contravening local authority regulations and may ultimately be liable to prosecution.
Businesses that intend to discharge sewage or other waste into rivers, the sea, or other area of water, will need to apply to the Environment Agency for a ‘consent to discharge’. The relevant forms can be found on the Environment Agency’s website. Businesses must also take reasonable steps to prevent accidental contamination of water.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) came into force in January 2007. Its regulations affect businesses that import, rebrand, manufacture or dispose of electrical or electronic equipment.
Under WEEE, businesses have a duty to register with an approved producer compliance scheme. If they don’t, they may be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 in a magistrate’s court or an unlimited fine in a higher court. Businesses have a duty to finance the treatment of electrical equipment that fall under the scope of the WEEE regulations.
Businesses that manufacture, import, distribute, sell or use chemical substances must comply with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. The Regulation covers a range of chemical substances, including those used in paints, cleaning and metal working.
These are just a few examples of the regulatory requirements for businesses. This is a complex area of law, and businesses should seek advice on their specific requirements.
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