Northern Ireland primary legislation

The following provides details on the primary legislation used in Northern Ireland in relation to waste treatment and management.

Waste and Contaminated Land Order 1997 SI 1997/2778

The Waste and Contaminated Land Order was made in November 1997, came into force in March 1998 and implements the European Commission (EC) Framework on Waste in Northern Ireland. The Order makes a number of provisions such as:

  • transfer of responsibility for waste regulation from the district councils to the Department of Environment (DOE), focused within the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
  • introduction of measures designed to increase control over the processing and handling of waste including Waste Management Licensing, Duty of Care, Registration of Carriers, Special Waste and Producer Responsibility
  • introduction of measures relating to the identification of contaminated land, designation of special sites, duties of enforcing authorities to require remediation, determination of appropriate persons to bear responsibility for remediation, liability of contaminating substances which escape to other land and contaminated land registers

Some parts of the order with respect to waste management have yet to be implemented, for example, waste licensing is operating under the provisions of the Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 until regulations for the transfer of responsibility to the DOE can be introduced.

Aspects of the order to be implemented include:

Duty of care:

This imposes a duty on those who produce, transport and dispose of waste to ensure these operations do not have adverse environmental impacts. It includes a system of tracking loads of waste as they move from producer to carrier to disposer to ensure each takes responsibility for proper disposal of waste in their care.

Registration of carriers:

All persons who transport waste must be registered and licensed to do so. This ensures that only appropriate persons who are aware of their legal and environmental obligations will be carrying waste. Under the Duty of Care waste producers must ensure their waste is removed by a registered waste carrier. The Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) Regulations (NI) 1999 make it an offence for any person who is not registered as carrier to transport controlled wastes and enable the seizure of vehicles used for illegal waste disposal.

Waste Management Licensing:

Sites where waste is disposed of or held pending disposal are to be authorised to do so and will be audited against the conditions of the licence, designed to minimised environmental impacts from the site. Under the Duty of Care producers and carriers of waste must ensure waste is only taken to a site licensed for that type of waste. Under the licensing provisions disposal site owners and operators must ensure the site is appropriately managed and they have made adequate financial provision for their operations.

Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 SI 1978/1049

The Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 SI 1978/1049 came into force in 1978 and applies to Northern Ireland only. It has been almost entirely revoked, with the exception of the following parts:

Part 2 on Waste on Land - deals with the provisions relating to waste which are still in force. In particular the Order still controls:

  • waste disposal arrangements
  • licensing of disposal of controlled waste
  • collection and removal of controlled waste
  • waste other than controlled waste

New provisions under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order propose to overhaul waste management and disposal in Northern Ireland.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

The following provisions in the Environment Protection Act 1990 are those that apply to Northern Ireland, sections 3, 62, 140, 141, 142, 146, 147, 148, 153, 156 and 158.

Special provision with respect to certain dangerous or intractable waste:

The Secretary of State can under section 62 of this Act to make Regulations to impose special provisions on certain controlled waste, which is:

  • dangerous
  • difficult to treat, keep or dispose of

Any regulation made under this section may prescribe requirements for record keeping on:

  • waste regulation authorities
  • waste exporters and importers
  • any persons that treat, keep or dispose of waste

In Northern Ireland the 'waste regulation authority' is the DOE (NI).

Other controls on substances, articles or waste:

Under section 140 of this Act, the Secretary of State can make Regulations to prohibit or restrict the importation, use, supply or storage of any substance that can pollute the environment or cause harm to humans, animals or plant health.

Regulations made under this section can prescribe that the prohibited or restricted substances are classified as waste and disposed of accordingly. If the substances have been imported illegally, then the hazardous substance must be treated, disposed of, or removed from the UK.

The Secretary of State is also given powers to form a committee to provide information and advice. They must consult with the committee about any proposed regulations and then a notice outlining the effects of these regulations are published in the London Gazette. If the proposed regulations apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland then this notice should also be published in the Edinburgh Gazette or the Belfast Gazette accordingly.

The consultation and publishing of the notice does not necessarily have to occur if the restriction or prohibitions is for substances imported in to the UK or there is a imminent risk posed by the substance.

The maximum penalties that can apply under any proposed regulations is imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or a fine of level 5 on the standard scale.

Powers to prohibit or restrict the importation or exportation of waste:

Under section 141 of this Act, the Secretary of State can make regulations to prohibit or restrict the import or export of waste that presents any risk to the environment or harm to humans.

Any regulation made under this section can impose:

  • specific duties on a waste regulations authority
  • specific duties on a Producer
  • duties on the consignor, consignee, carrier or holder
  • recording or records procedures
  • a penalty up to a maximum of 2 years imprisonment or a level 5 fine on the standard scale
  • powers to obtain information about potentially hazardous substances

The Secretary of State is given powers under section 142 of this Act to create Regulations to obtain information on substances that could potentially cause pollution or harm to humans.

Any regulation made under this section can prescribe amongst others:

  • the information that is required
  • level of confidentiality information will be dealt with
  • a penalty of up to a level 5 fine on the standard scale

Financial assistance for environmental purposes:

The Secretary of State is given powers under section 153 of this Act to give financial assistance to various environmental organisations with the consent on the Treasury.

This order came in to force on 22 September 1998 and applies to Northern Ireland only.

It establishes a legal base for regulations and allows the DOE (NI) to impose obligations on people with regard to the re-use, recovery and recycling of various products and materials in accordance with the EC Packaging Directive 94/62/EC.

The main regulations established under this order are the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 1999/115.

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1985/1208

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1985/1208 came fully into force on 31 September 1985 and applies to Northern Ireland only. It provides district councils with new powers and makes miscellaneous amendments to various laws relating to local government.

The following sections apply to the environment:

Relaxation of Departmental control of councils (section 34)

Schedule 3 to this Order provides details for:

  • limiting the power of government departments, with regard to supervising councils when they are carrying out their functions
  • amending the statutory provisions, with regard to the functions of government departments and councils
Back to top