Doing business in the UK: Environmental rules05 March 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 30 March 2012
Businesses in the UK have a legal responsibility for the impact they have on the environment.
Key environmental legislation is available per region (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales) and per subject area (air, chemicals, waste, etc.) on the following web pages:
Land legislation in the UK covers:
- nature conservation
- pollution from agricultural operations contaminated land (including radioactive contamination)
- liability for environmental damage
The Planning Portal is the UK Government's online planning and building regulations resource for England and Wales.
Waste responsibilities include storing waste safely and securely and having it collected by an approved organisation.
UK chemicals legislation covers using, storing, transporting, packaging, labelling and disposing of chemicals and other substances that could harm the environment. It also covers the qualifications required to use certain chemicals and measures to control major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.
It is an offence to discharge anything into surface waters or groundwater without Environment Agency consent. Groundwater regulations control the disposal of harmful substances into groundwater, including pesticides, herbicides and solvents.
Climate and air
Businesses have legal duties regarding air pollution and providing a safe working environment. These can be found in Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The main legal duties apply where noise exposure in a business is likely to equal or exceed certain action values - notably 80 decibels and 85 decibels averaged over a working day or week - although there are also values relating to the maximum, or 'peak', noise to which employees are exposed. However, the main focus is on control through good practice rather than measurement.
Permits and licences
Certain business activities require special authorisations, including licences, permits and consent. These normally need to be obtained from the Environment Agency, but local authorities and water companies are responsible for some authorisations.
The Planning Portal is the one-stop shop for planning and building services online. You can use it to:
- learn about planning and building regulations
- apply for planning permission
- find out about development near you
- appeal against a decision
- research government policy
Businesses must complete a waste transfer or consignment note when waste is handed over.
In terms of waste packaging responsibilities, if a business's turnover is more than £2 million and it handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging per year, it must register with the environmental regulator or join an approved compliance scheme.
Hazardous waste must be correctly classified and described. It must also be disposed of at, or recovered from, an officially licensed facility.
In an effort to prevent water pollution, environmental permits control discharges into surface waters and groundwater. Abstraction licences are required from the Environment Agency when using large quantities of water from surface waters or groundwater.
Source: European Commission