Page 4: Legal requirements
Scientists and other experts worldwide have increasingly been concerned about the possible environmental impact of industrial activity. This has led to increasing international pressures for changes in industrial practice. Several inter-governmental conferences have taken place with the aim of creating international agreements. These included the Johannesburg Conference in 2002, and most notably the Rio Conference which established the Rio Treaty in 1992, and Agenda 21; A set of Action Steps for the 21st century.
These conferences and the resulting European Union regulations have led to many new UK laws. In particular, the Environment Protection and the Pollution Prevention and Control regulations have placed legal obligations on businesses and how they operate.
For example, all companies operating large wood mills must have a permit. This sets out monitoring and record keeping requirements and also strict controls on the releases from these processes. Industrial wastes must be identified, documented and transported by authorised carriers only.
There are additional regulations for special wastes such as toxic materials. In addition the Water Resources Act protects 'controlled waters' including rivers, lakes, coastal seas and groundwater. It is illegal for businesses to discharge wastes into these controlled waters without consent, and only then under strict regulations.
There are also controls on deposits into sinks and drains. Businesses that fail to comply face heavy fines and, in the worst cases, custodial sentences. Firms can also be prosecuted for failing to keep product-packaging materials to a minimum.