Press release

Environment protected and business boosted by cutting unnecessary red tape

Proposals will both ensure protection of the environment and benefit a wide range of businesses, particularly small and medium sized firms.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Environmental regulations will be made simpler and more effective while remaining as strong as ever following a review of red tape, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced today.

Simpler and smarter environment regulations will provide savings to businesses of more than £1billion over five years and protect the environment by being cheaper and easier for companies to follow while enforcement will be targeted at companies that are not abiding by the rules.

Announcing the results of the Government’s Red Tape Challenge environment theme, Mrs Spelman said:

“I want to be very clear that this is not about rolling back environmental safeguards, nor is it just about cutting regulation to stimulate growth. We’ve always said that we were going to keep the vitally important protection our environment needs. This was about getting better rules, not weaker ones. The results of the Red Tape Challenge will be good for the environment and good for business, because as well as upholding environmental protection we will remove unnecessary bureaucracy to allow businesses to free up resources to invest in growth.

“We’re making it easier for people to do the right thing, by making rules clearer and by getting rid of old, unworkable regulations. This is a prime example of how we can help grow a green economy whilst looking after our natural resources.”

Developed in consultation with green groups and businesses, including 3,500 website responses and written submissions, the resulting package will see 132 regulations improved, mainly through simplification or mergers; 70 kept as they are, to uphold important environmental protections; and the repeal of 53 others that are obsolete.

The proposals will both ensure protection of the environment and benefit a wide range of businesses, particularly small and medium sized firms. Businesses told the Red Tape Challenge they were particularly frustrated by the amount of red tape and paperwork needed to deal with their waste and the amount of staff hours responsible companies are spending dealing with bureaucracy and inspections.

Examples of some of the problems raised by businesses in the Red Tape Challenge, and measures Government is are taking to ease the burdens, include:

  • Many small businesses told us that the current need for them to fill out reams of paperwork to record the transfer of their waste was unnecessary and overly time-consuming. At the moment 23.5million paper Waste Transfer Notes (WTNs) are produced each year in the UK. Following consultation Defra will look to free businesses from having to fill in unnecessary WTNs by allowing them to use other forms of evidence instead, such as invoices. A quick and easy electronic recording system will also be introduced from January 2014 which will do away with unnecessary admin, saving businesses at least £5million per year.
  • Small businesses are concerned that the design of the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) will inflict excessive costs on them. Defra will work with the European Commission to ensure better clarity and transparency on cost sharing under the REACH regulations, to ensure a fair system for small businesses and avoid the risk of them being overcharged.
  • Industry told the Red Tape Challenge that guidelines on the need to clean up contaminated land were unclear, resulting in expensive remediation operations being carried out unnecessarily. Defra has introduced better guidance, due to take effect next month, on what land would need to be cleaned-up, so it is clear what action is needed. This will offer better protection against any potential health impacts by concentrating on the sites where action is actually needed, and save businesses £140million per year.
  • Currently the GB implementation of the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations prohibit the placing on the market of second hand articles containing asbestos. In practice this means that before sale of such items, asbestos must be stripped out and disposed of, potentially causing unnecessary risk to human health and the environment, and a large financial cost on businesses. The Government is changing our implementation of REACH to allow second hand articles containing asbestos to be sold, providing the seller can show that people’s health will be properly protected. Health and Safety Executive policy on asbestos is that it is better to leave it in place if it is in good condition and is unlikely to be damaged or disturbed. This will save businesses an estimated £29million per year.
  • Defra is easing the burden on small businesses of producer responsibility obligations. For example, we are looking to exempt more small portable battery producers from this requirement, which will reduce their burden without having an adverse effect on battery recycling rates.
  • Businesses told the Red Tape Challenge that the current 31 pages of guidance on recording hazardous waste disposal was overly complicated and difficult to follow. Defra will simplify the guidance by the summer to make it cheaper and easier for firms to comply with these important regulations.
  • Producers must pay for the collection, treatment, recovery and recycling of their market share of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) through producer compliance schemes (PCSs), but this can often cost much more than the true costs of treating the old and discarded electrical products. BIS will consult on a range of options for changes to the existing regulations early next year, including an option for a new central allocation system for local authority sites to help the schemes fully align collections with their members’ obligations.
  • Firms said they want the flexibility to decide the sequencing of their planning and environmental permitting applications, so that if they think one application could fail they can get a decision on that one first before proceeding further. About 450 applications a year currently lack this flexibility. Defra will look to extend this ability to all businesses by April next year.

The Government’s environmental objectives remain unchanged, and we will maintain the strong protections already established as we continue to look for further opportunities to reduce burdens for business. Many comments in the Red Tape Challenge suggested that the environmental framework - covering 257 regulatory instruments, over 10,000 pages of guidance and 397 data sets - is overly complex and inconsistent and gets in the way of businesses complying effectively with their environmental obligations. Defra will start work immediately with business and environment organisations to identify the scope for significant rationalisation of guidance, and will report to Ministers by September with the aim of an announcement in the autumn. Defra will similarly examine the scope for significant rationalisation of data sets and report by the autumn. Changes that can be easily introduced will be taken forward as soon as possible.

Business Minister Mark Prisk said:

“These results are exactly what we wanted to achieve through the Red Tape Challenge. We are keeping vital environmental protection rules, but sweeping away genuine red tape to give firms more time to concentrate on growing their business.

“The comments made on the website, by people who deal with these regulations every day, are what has driven this whole process, and I’m pleased that so many people have taken this chance to have their say.”

Robert Hunt, Executive Director of at Veolia Environmental Services and sector champion for the environment theme, said:

“I’m delighted that so many businesses have contributed to this unique opportunity to ease the burdens placed on industry by some overly complex and unnecessary environmental regulations. Protecting the environment and the resources it provides is good for business and vital for economic growth, so it has been our primary goal to ensure that important regulations were not weakened by this process. The package of changes we have secured will make a real difference to business while upkeeping the environmental protections we all want to see remain.”


  1. The Environment theme has been open for comment on the website since April 2011, with a ‘spotlight’ period in September 2011. The Environment theme covered regulations owned by Defra, DECC and BIS. The website has received 3,500 comments from businesses, trade bodies, environmental groups and members of the public.
  2. The Red Tape Challenge was launched by the Prime Minister on 7 April 2011. It gives business and the public the chance to have their say on some of the more than 10,000 regulations that affect their everyday lives.
  3. The website is available at
  4. Overall, of over 1450 regulations considered so far, we have agreed to scrap or improve well over 50% - decisions that will bring real benefit to businesses, Civil Society organisations and individuals.
  5. The Challenge process does not include legislation or regulations falling within the responsibilities of the devolved administrations.
  6. Link to the complete Red Tape Challenge package
Published 19 March 2012