Environmental Protection: Waste Management

Environmental Protection Act 1990

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 defines the notions of pollution of the environment.

What is meant by the environment?

The term environment is said to consist of all, or any, of the following media, namely, the air, water and land; and the medium of air includes the air within buildings and the air within other natural or man-made structures above or below ground.

Pollution of the environment

This is defined as follows:

“pollution of the environment due to the release (into any environmental medium) from any process of substances which are capable of causing harm to man or any other living organisms supported by the environment.”

Therefore in order to prove pollution of the environment under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 we need to show that harm has been caused from a process being released.


This is defined as follows:

“harm to the health of living organisms or other interference with the ecological systems of which they form part and, in the case of man, includes offence caused to any of his senses or harm to his property.”


Process is defined as follows:

“meaning any activities carried on in Great Britain, whether on premises or by means of mobile plant, which are capable of causing pollution of the environment.”


A substance is said to be released into any environmental medium whenever it is released directly into that medium whether it is released into it within or outside Great Britain.

It is said to occur in the following three scenarios:

  1. In relation to air – any emission of the substance into the air
  2. In relation to water – any entry (including any discharge) of the substance into water
  3. In relation to land – any deposit, keeping or disposal of the substance in or on land

Subjects covered by the Act

Examples of the environmental protection offered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are as follows:

  • Waste management
  • Noise pollution
  • Neighbourhood pollution
  • Radioactive substances
  • Genetically Modified organisms
  • Nature Conservation
  • Waste Management

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 states that environmental pollution in relation to waste occurs from a release occurring in the following scenarios:

  • From the land on which controlled waste is treated
  • From the land on which controlled waste is kept
  • From the land in or on which controlled waste is deposited
  • From a fixed plant by means of which controlled waste is treated, kept or disposed of

Duty of Care

The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 introduced a duty of care into the legislation which provides that anyone who imports, produces, carries, treats or disposes of waste is subject to a duty of care to ensure that they take all reasonable and practicable measures to do the following:

  • To prevent another person illegally treating, keeping, depositing or otherwise disposing of waste.

  • To prevent the escape of waste.

  • To  ensure that transfer of the waste only occurs to an “authorised person” and that the transfer is accompanied by a written description of the waste

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For more information on:

  • Waste deposited in Landfill Sites
  • Regulations in Relation to Businesses
  • Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006 
  • Is there any further legislation which applies directly to me?