40 years ago: Hazardous Waste

Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972
Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972

It would be a shame not to acknowledge the passing of one of the most important and key environmental legislation that started forty years ago.

Whilst, I cannot claim to have been involved in hazardous waste regulation at the very beginning – My experience started with the Greater London Council, then later, the London Waste Regulation Authority and the Environment Agency with a great deal of involvement in the classification of special / hazardous waste, the management of the consignment note system, technical advice and promotion of best practice.

As for the history, drums of cyanide waste were dumped at an abandoned brick kiln near Nuneaton, leading to a huge public outcry. The ensuing furore, along with press coverage of waste disposal drivers taking bribes to dump hazardous waste illegally, and a report by the Royal Commission on toxic wastes, provided the catalyst for the first ever legislation to control hazardous waste. And, so The Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972 was drafted in 10 days and passed through Parliament within a month.

The Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972 was passed as a temporary measure while consideration was given to more permanent legislation. In 1974, the Control of Pollution Act was passed with revised controls on hazardous waste brought in by the Control of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations 1980. These Regulations defined “Special Waste” with respect to the ingestion of small amounts of the waste by a 20 kilogram child.

Subsequently, the Special Waste Regulations 1996 introduced further controls on hazardous waste including the definition of such waste linked to the List of Wastes and CHIP (Chemicals Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations. Indeed, it was the first time that UK environmental legislation defined hazardous waste as up to this point, the term “Special Waste” was used.

The current conclusion of this historical trail leads to the Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 as amended used today.

For those interested in environmental history, a copy of The Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972 can be found at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1972/21/contents/enacted

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