Defining Recycling (October 2003, Stephen Tromans)

Defining Recycling (October 2003, Stephen Tromans)


It is salutary to realise that the late Professor J.F. Garner, when producing his first commentary on the Control of Pollution Act 1974, saw no need to comment on or explore the definition of “waste” provided in section 30(1) of the Act. In the light of subsequent problems of interpretation, perhaps Professor Garner was sensible to resist the temptation to speculate on how the law might develop in relation to a definition that was, at that point, illustrative rather than definitive – beginning as it did with the words “waste includes – …”.  In one of the earlier cases the truism has been stated that “one man’s waste may be another man’s treasure”, in support of the proposition that material may be waste notwithstanding the fact that it has an economic value. However, with the advent of producer responsibility initiatives, requiring waste producers to secure the recovery of quotas of waste, on pain of criminal penalties, the waste recovery process itself comes to have a very substantial economic value, irrespective of the intrinsic value of the material being recovered or of the recovered product. Those accredited to issue the evidence of the required recovery have a real treasure; some might even say a licence to print money. This explains the hard-fought litigation between Mayer Parry and the Environment Agency in this case.

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