Guidance

Preventing pollution from paper and cardboard production

Paper and cardboard production can cause significant pollution. This guide describes industry responsibilities for preventing pollution.

Purpose of this guide

The paper and cardboard industry includes:

  • paper and paperboard manufacturers
  • businesses that produce paper and paperboard products
  • businesses that carry out finishing activities, such as coating, covering, laminating and embossing paper or cardboard Industry activities may cause:
    • air pollution from dust and fumes
    • water pollution from contaminated discharges or run-off
    • noise pollution from materials handling and deliveries to your site
    • land contamination from accidental spills of solvents

If you are in the paper and cardboard industry, this guide describes your responsibilities for preventing pollution to air, land and water. It includes guidance on:

  • noise and vibration
  • cooling towers
  • vehicle emissions
  • vehicle cleaning and car parks
  • how to prevent and deal with pollution incidents

Air pollution responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers

Paper and cardboard businesses can emit dust, smoke, fumes and gases which affect air quality. Emissions to air include:

  • oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur (SOx) and carbon (COx) from combustion plant or liquor burning
  • particulates and dust from combustion or paper handling
  • formaldehydes and ammonia from wet strength resins
  • solvents from cleaning or coating processes
  • chloroform from the use of chlorine compounds in bleaching
  • odorous substances from wet pulping or effluent treatment plants

Comply with your permit conditions

If your business has an environmental permit, you must meet the conditions it contains.

Your permit may contain conditions relating to odour and emissions to air, including controls on substances such as:

  • halogens, eg chlorine, fluorine and bromine-containing substances
  • NOx
  • particulates, eg PM10 and dust
  • SOx
  • volatile organic compounds, eg formaldehyde

See our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

If you use organic solvents, you must comply with further requirements. See the page on solvent use responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers in our guide on waste and hazardous substance responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.

Avoid causing a nuisance

You must ensure that your activities do not create levels of dust, smoke or odour that could cause a nuisance to the surrounding community. If you do cause a nuisance, your local authority can:

  • impose restrictions on your operations
  • stop your operations
  • require you to take steps to reduce the nuisance

See our guide on noise, odour and other nuisances.

Meet boiler and chimney requirements

If you operate a boiler, you are likely to have to meet tight controls on its emissions to air.

You must not cause or allow a chimney or bonfire on your site to emit dark smoke. There are some exemptions from this requirement, but only if your installation won’t cause emissions that could damage health or cause a nuisance.

See our guide on preventing air pollution.

Check for ozone-depleting substances (ODS) or fluorinated gases (F-gases)

In most circumstances, you must not use ODS for any degreasing or solvent application. ODS include:

  • hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • bromochloromethane
  • carbon tetrachloride

F-gases are powerful gases that contribute to climate change. Common F-gas uses include:

  • refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment in buildings and vehicles
  • solvents
  • firefighting and fire protection equipment

If your business uses or handles F-gases or equipment that contains them, you must comply with special controls.

See our guide on managing fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances.

Good practice

To reduce dust, odours and fumes you should:

  • establish systems to monitor, measure, control and minimise dust emissions
  • damp down areas of your site that give rise to dust (particularly in dry weather), but don’t allow run-off to enter surface water drains
  • extract and filter dust-contaminated air during finishing
  • install chemical recovery systems to capture chemicals in exhaust gases
  • use filtered extraction hoods on paper machines to prevent emissions of odorous substances
  • remove water vapour with a ventilator to prevent emissions of hazardous substances in the water vapour
  • use low NOx burners if you have combustion plant
  • keep covers on chemical containers to prevent odour and stop the escape of potentially harmful vapours and fumes - this may also save you money by reducing loss of materials through evaporation

To reduce the risk of harmful chemical emissions you should:

  • reduce the use of bleaching chemicals by extending cooking and oxygen delignification
  • use brightening techniques that do not dissolve the lignin when bleaching mechanical pulp or recovered mechanical pulp - this will reduce the chemical oxygen demand of water in the manufacturing process
  • use chlorine-free techniques that do not use sulphur compounds when bleaching chemical or recovered chemical pulp

Noise pollution responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers

Paper and cardboard businesses may create noise by:

  • operating large processing plant and machinery, eg compressors, vacuum pumps and ventilators
  • moving materials and goods to and from the site
  • using vehicles on the site, especially if they have reversing alarms

Your activities can also create vibration. Noise nuisance also covers vibration and both are controlled at the same time.

If noise or vibration from your activities causes a nuisance to the surrounding community, your local authority can limit your operations or even stop you from working. They can restrict:

  • the machinery you use
  • your working hours
  • noise levels from your premises

If you have a permit or exemption and you breach noise conditions the Environment Agency or your local authority can take enforcement action against you. If you do not address a noise problem you could face legal action and a fine.

You must comply with any noise conditions set out in the planning approval for your site.

Register your burglar alarms

If your business is located in an alarm notification area you must:

  • register your burglar alarm with your local authority
  • provide the details of a person who holds the keys
  • ensure the key holder knows how to use the alarm system

You could be fined if you do not register. Contact your local authority to find out if your business is in an alarm notification area.

Find contact details for your local authority.

Protect your employees from loud noise

Loud noise can cause irreversible hearing damage. You must protect your employees’ hearing.

Check your permit conditions

If you have an environmental permit or a waste exemption, it may contain conditions that control emissions, such as noise. You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit or exemption. If you don’t comply, the Environment Agency or your local authority can take enforcement action, such as issuing you with an enforcement notice or a suspension notice for breach of a condition.

See our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

Good practice

Carry out noisy activities away from areas where noise may cause a nuisance. Position noisy equipment away from your site boundary. You can use existing buildings to shield the noise source.

Make sure your buildings have adequate soundproofing. Shutting your doors and windows will also reduce noise. Use solid panelled fencing around your site instead of wire fences. This can help to screen the source and reduce the level of noise from your site.

Keep external doors and loading bays closed when they are not in use. For example, fit automatic closing devices to help prevent excess noise causing a nuisance to your neighbours.

Chipping and pulping operations can be extremely noisy. If you carry out these activities you should do so in a section of your building that has adequate soundproofing or acoustic dampening to minimise the impact of the noise.

Reduce noise from your equipment and vehicles by servicing them regularly. Consider fitting noise-reducing devices, and when you replace equipment consider buying quieter alternatives.

You should regularly monitor noise from your site, when it is fully working and also when it is shut down. This will give you an idea of the impact of your work on noise levels in the surrounding community. Monitoring will also help you identify any change in noise levels. If you are in any doubt about noise levels, you should get advice from a noise expert.

Limit noisy activities to daylight hours as noise is more likely to be a nuisance at night.

If you operate a night shift, move materials into the work area during the day or early evening. This will reduce the risk of complaints from the local community.

If you receive a complaint make sure you deal with it properly. Read about how to deal with complaints in the page on good practice to avoid causing nuisance in our guide on noise, odour and other nuisances.

Water and sewer discharge responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers

If you pollute water or cause or risk causing environmental damage to water, you may be committing an offence.

Your paper and cardboard business may create wastewater or effluent from:

  • process effluent, eg from de-inking operations
  • effluent or other treatment plants
  • boiler operations
  • cooling processes
  • cleaning operations
  • site drainage and stormwater run-off

Your wastewater or run-off may contain:

  • suspended solids
  • oil and fuels
  • heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium
  • acids and alkalis, which affect the pH of the water
  • solvents
  • softening or brightening agents
  • biocides, eg plant protection chemicals
  • cleaning products

You should handle these substances with care at all stages of processing and manufacture as they can pollute surface waters and groundwater.

Get permission to discharge to water and sewers

You must get an environmental permit or register an exemption from environmental permitting with the Environment Agency before you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated water to surface waters or groundwater. You may also need consent if you need to construct a new outfall structure for your discharge.

You must comply with the conditions of your permit or exemption or you may be prosecuted and fined.

You must have permission from your water and sewerage company before you discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated water to their drainage system. If you discharge trade effluent to a public foul sewer, you must first have a trade effluent consent or agreement.

See the page on water discharge permits for paper and cardboard producers in our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

Prevent environmental damage

Water pollution can be classed as environmental damage in some circumstances.

You must prevent and clean up environmental damage that occurs from surface or groundwater pollution caused by your business activities. If anyone else reports environmental damage as a result of your activities, your enforcing authority will have to investigate.

See the pages in our guide on pollution incidents and environmental damage - an overview on preventing environmental damage and what is environmental damage?

Good practice

Store hazardous materials, fuel, oil and chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills. This may be a legal requirement if you store oil. See our guide on storing oil.

You should use an impermeable secondary containment system such as a:

  • bunded area
  • bunded pallet or spill pallet
  • sump pallet
  • bunded storage unit
  • bunded drum store
  • storage cabinet with an integral sump

Your bund and any bunded pallets should be able to contain at least 110 per cent of the volume of the largest tank or 25 per cent of the total volume you are likely to store, whichever is greater. See the page on fuel and oil use responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers in our guide on waste and hazardous substances responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.

For information on managing your drainage system, see the page on drainage system requirements to avoid pollution in our guide on preventing water pollution.

Follow the pollution prevention guidelines (PPGs) to avoid causing pollution. This is particularly important if your business is in an area that has vulnerable groundwater. Find PPGs on the Environment Agency website.

Prepare a pollution incident response procedure for dealing with spills. Make sure that your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it.

See the page in this guide on pollution incident prevention at paper and cardboard production sites.

Cooling tower responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers

If your business has air-conditioned offices or carries out a manufacturing process that uses water as a coolant, you may have a cooling tower.

Cooling towers remove heat from circulating cooling water systems, so that the water can be recirculated. The heat removed from the water is released to the atmosphere.

Register your cooling tower

If you have a cooling tower or an evaporative condenser, you must notify your local authority. You must also tell them if you make any changes to your cooling tower or if you stop using it. Ask your local authority’s environmental health department for a cooling tower registration or notification form.

Find contact details for your local authority.

Your local authority and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will carry out regular inspections to ensure that your cooling tower meets safety standards.

Check if you need a permit, licence or exemption

If your cooling tower is part of a large installation you may need an environmental permit. If you are not sure whether you need a permit, contact the Environment Agency or your local authority.

See the page on listed activity permits for paper and cardboard products in our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

If you discharge cooling tower effluent or blowdown to surface waters, groundwater or land you must have an environmental permit from the Environment Agency. For discharges to the foul sewer you must have permission from your water and sewerage company.

Find contact details for your water company on the Water UK website.

See the page on water discharge permits in our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit, licence or exemption. If you don’t comply, the Environment Agency or your local authority can take enforcement action against you, such as issuing you with an enforcement notice or a suspension notice for breach of a condition.

Prevent Legionnaires’ disease

You must keep cooling tower systems in good condition. If they are not properly maintained they can create the ideal habitat for certain bacteria, in particular Legionella which causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Download guidance on Legionnaires’ disease from the HSE website (PDF, 105K).

Limit noise from cooling towers

Cooling tower fans may be noisy. You can fit ventilation silencers to your cooling tower fan inlet and discharge vents to reduce noise levels.

If noise levels cause a nuisance to your neighbours, your local authority can require you to take steps to reduce or stop the nuisance, or impose restrictions on or stop your operations.

The Environment Agency may take enforcement action if noise levels breach the conditions of any permit.

See our guide on noise, odour and other nuisances.

Good practice

Inspect your cooling towers regularly. Your local authority and the HSE will visit your premises to ensure you meet safety standards.

You should clean cooling towers:

  • at least twice a year
  • after any shutdown of more than a month
  • after any major alterations

Employ specialists to carry out cleaning. Cleaning will improve cooling tower efficiency and minimise the risk of disease.

You may store chemicals on your site, for example for maintenance. Chemicals you receive may be supplied with a safety data sheet (SDS). The SDS contains information about the chemical, including how to store, use and dispose of it safely. The SDS may also recommend the best methods and materials to use to clean up a spill. If you receive a chemical without an SDS, contact your supplier to find out whether or not they have to provide one.

See the page on chemical and REACH responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers in our guide on waste and hazardous substance responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.

Vehicle emission obligations for paper and cardboard producers

Your paper and cardboard business may use company vehicles to transport materials and goods, or for staff business travel. You should check and control the emissions from your vehicles to minimise their impact on the environment.

Emissions from vehicle exhausts are a significant source of air pollution. Air pollutants in vehicle emissions include:

  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • carbon monoxide
  • fine dust particles
  • nitrogen oxides
  • unburnt hydrocarbons

Limit vehicle emissions

You should try to limit the vehicle emissions produced by your business as they may:

  • lead to ill health, such as respiratory problems, in your staff and the public
  • cause a nuisance to your neighbours
  • contribute to roadside pollution levels in urban areas
  • contribute to climate change

Meet vehicle emission requirements

Make sure that your vehicles comply with emission limits and weight regulations. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) carries out roadside checks to enforce these standards.

Ensure your vehicles comply with exhaust emission standards in the:

  • Ministry of Transport (MOT) test scheme for motor vehicles
  • Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) scheme
  • Public Service Vehicle (PSV) scheme

Find information on DVSA’s operational activities.

Check for local air quality controls

Your local authority monitors air quality in your area. If the air quality exceeds a certain threshold, it may declare an area to be an air quality management area (AQMA).

Some local authorities are introducing low emission zones to reduce pollution in urban centres. These are areas where you may have to pay a daily charge if your vehicle doesn’t meet certain emission standards or qualify for an exemption. Check with your local authority to find out if there are any low emission zones or AQMAs in your area. Find a contact for your local authority.

Find information on local AQMAs in the UK on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.

You must turn off your engine if your vehicle is stationary to reduce exhaust emissions and noise. You can be prosecuted or fined by some local authorities if you leave your engine running while stationary for more than a few minutes.

Good practice

Service all your vehicles regularly.

Monitor your fuel consumption to help detect problems early.

Pre-plan delivery routes to use less congested routes and maximise the efficient use of vehicles, reducing your journey time and saving you fuel.

Reduce your vehicle emissions by being more fuel efficient. See the page on using work vehicles efficiently in our guide on reducing your vehicle emissions.

When buying new company vehicles, select models with low CO2 emissions and high fuel efficiency.

Find out fuel consumption and CO2 emissions for new and used cars with the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) Car Fuel Data service. For details of older vehicles, check the CO2 emissions of vehicles on the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ltd (SMMT) website.

You can benefit from tax breaks by buying low emission vehicles. See the page on tax breaks for low-emission vehicles in our guide on reducing your vehicle emissions.

You can reduce your vehicle emissions and possibly reduce running costs by using alternative fuels, such as gas or electrical hybrids. See the page on how to use alternatively powered vehicles in our guide on reducing your vehicle emissions.

You can fit older vehicles with devices that reduce their emissions. This can be a cheaper alternative to upgrading engines. Find information on converting your fleet to run on alternative fuels on the ECOtravel website.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) reward businesses that use cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. Road tax and National Insurance Contributions are linked to the car’s exhaust emissions, particularly its CO2 emissions. Read about company cars.

Vehicle cleaning responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers

As part of your business’ activities you may clean vehicles - including using wheel washes to clean the wheels and undercarriages of vehicles.

You are responsible for avoiding pollution from vehicle cleaning or wheel washing by anyone at your site.

If you take your vehicles to a commercial facility such as a car wash, this guidance does not apply to you.

Control run-off from vehicle cleaning

Surface run-off from washing areas can contain high levels of pollutants such as:

  • detergents
  • oil and fuel
  • suspended solids
  • grease
  • antifreeze

You must not allow run-off to enter surface water drains, surface waters or groundwater. This will cause pollution and you could be prosecuted.

You should only wash vehicles in defined areas where you can contain the wash water and any rainfall run-off.

If possible, direct the surface run-off from your vehicle washing area to an on-site treatment system. You could reduce your impact on the environment and save money by reusing the water.

You may be able to discharge surface run-off directly to a foul sewer or combined sewer. Ask your water and sewerage company if you need authorisation before you discharge run-off to a sewer. You must comply with any conditions of your authorisation.

See the page on water discharge permits for paper and cardboard producers in our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

Alternatively, collect your run-off in a sealed unit and send it to an authorised disposal site. Check that anyone who takes your waste away from your site is a registered waste carrier. See the page on checking your waste is dealt with correctly in our guide on duty of care - your waste responsibilities.

Use sustainable drainage systems (SUDS)

You may be able to use SUDS to drain run-off from washing areas. SUDS slow and hold back run-off from a site, so that pollutants are broken down naturally. See our guide on using sustainable drainage systems to prevent pollution and flooding.

Be authorised to use water from surface waters or groundwater

If you use (abstract) water from surface waters or groundwater for cleaning vehicles, you may need an authorisation or licence from the Environment Agency.

See the page on water use licences for paper and cardboard producers in our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

Good practice

Use vehicle washing facilities and equipment that filter and reuse water, or set up a wash water recycling system.

Use trigger-operated spray guns. Make sure they have an automatic water supply cut-off.

Use settlement lagoons or suitable absorbent material such as flocculent to remove suspended solids, eg mud and silt. Before using flocculent, contact your water and sewerage company to make sure that you can still discharge to the sewer.

Use catchpots or silt traps on drains, and ensure that they are in place during cleaning. Empty them at regular intervals.

Remove oil, grease and fuel from wash water by passing it slowly through an appropriately sized oil separator.

Ensure that any discharge containing detergent cannot run to the oil separator, as this will stop it working.

If you use detergents, use a recycling system with no discharge or ensure that run-off containing detergents is collected in a sealed unit. Contact your local water and sewerage company about disposing of these materials to the foul sewer.

Download Pollution prevention guideline: Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (PPG3).

Minimise the amount of cleaning chemicals you use. Choose biodegradable and phosphate-free detergents as they are less harmful to the environment.

Carry out cleaning in a designated impermeable area that is isolated from the surrounding area, eg by a roll-over bund, raised kerb, ramps or stepped access.

Store all cleaning chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills. See our guide on chemical storage.

Train all staff to follow vehicle cleaning procedures. Display details of procedures in the work area so staff can check them easily.

Pollution incident prevention at paper and cardboard production sites

Pollution incidents at your site can have serious environmental impacts. They may damage the water environment and biodiversity, cause air pollution and land contamination and harm human health. You can reduce the risk of pollution incidents with planning and preparation. Pollution incidents can be caused by:

  • fuel drips, spills or overfilling during refuelling or tank filling
  • plant, pipes, equipment or containers leaking oil or chemicals
  • pump and pipeline failures
  • treatment plant failures
  • contaminated water entering a watercourse or drain
  • natural events, such as flooding, lightning strike and temperature extremes
  • vandalism and theft
  • deliberate acts, such as illegal disposal, dumping or fly-tipping
  • wind blown dust and waste

Produce a pollution incident response plan

You should have a pollution incident response plan which outlines the actions you will take to reduce the chances that your business causes pollution from an incident or accident at your site.

Your plan should include:

  • your site activities and operations
  • what you store on your site
  • emergency and out-of-hours contact details for key staff, regulators and emergency services
  • a detailed site plan showing drainage layout, areas where the chances of causing pollution are high and areas vulnerable to pollution
  • the actions to take in the event of an incident

Prevent and remediate environmental damage

A pollution incident may cause, or threaten to cause, environmental damage to water, land and biodiversity.

You must take action to prevent environmental damage and to remedy any damage you cause.

Prevent pollution from firefighting

Firewater is water that has become contaminated by being used for firefighting. It is polluting and may be classified as hazardous waste. Ensure you have a plan and equipment in place to collect or contain it in the event of an emergency. You should:

  • store firewater correctly
  • ensure firewater is treated and disposed of correctly
  • prevent firewater from running into surface drains, polluting nearby watercourses (rivers, streams and groundwater), foul drainage systems and land

Download Pollution prevention guideline: Managing fire water and major spillages (PPG18) from the National Archives website (PDF, 132KB).

Further information

For more information on pollution incident response plans, environmental damage and preventing pollution, see our guide on pollution incidents and environmental damage - an overview.

Car park environmental requirements at paper and cardboard production sites

Parking areas for operational employee or customer vehicles at your paper or cardboard production business may be a source of noise or pollution.

Reduce noise, dust and nuisances from car parks

If your business causes a nuisance to your neighbours, your local authority can require you to take steps to reduce or stop the nuisance, or impose restrictions on or stop your operations.

Nuisances from parking areas could include:

  • noise and fumes from vehicle engines
  • noise from vehicle alarms, eg reversing alarms
  • dust from vehicle wheels
  • excessive artificial lighting
  • waste deposits
  • vermin attracted by waste
  • accumulated wind-blown rubbish

You should control these potential sources of nuisance. See our guide on noise, odour and other nuisances.

Check your permit and exemption conditions

If you have an environmental permit or registered exemption, they may contain conditions that control emissions such as noise, dust or odour.

You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit or exemption. If you don’t comply, the Environment Agency or your local authority can take enforcement action against you, such as issuing you with an enforcement notice or a suspension notice for breach of a condition.

See our guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for paper and cardboard production.

Control surface water run-off

Water that runs off the surface of your car parks can cause erosion, pollution and localised flooding. Run-off may contain pollutants such as:

  • oil and fuel
  • hydraulic fluids
  • suspended solids
  • grease
  • antifreeze

You must not allow contaminated run-off to enter surface water drains, surface waters or groundwater without permission. This will cause pollution and you could be prosecuted. See the page in this guide on water and sewer discharge responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.

If you have a car park that has an area less than 800 square metres (fewer than 50 parking spaces), and you only use it for parking cars, you can discharge surface water run-off directly as long as you are not next to sensitive environments, eg Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

If you have a larger car park, you should remove oil, grease, petrol and diesel from run-off by passing it through an oil separator before you discharge it. You should also use an oil separator for any run-off from areas used for more polluting activities, such as vehicle servicing.

Download Pollution prevention guideline: Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (PPG3).

Alternatively, you may be able to use sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) to drain run-off from car parks. SUDS slow and hold back run-off from a site, so that pollutants can be broken down naturally.

See our guide on using sustainable drainage systems to prevent pollution and flooding.

If you clean vehicles on your car park, you must not allow run-off to enter surface water drains, surface waters or groundwater. If someone else cleans vehicles on your car park, it is your responsibility to ensure that they do not cause pollution. See the page in this guide on vehicle cleaning responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.

Good practice

Use catchpots or silt traps on drains, and ensure that they are working effectively. Empty them at regular intervals.

Encourage staff and visitors to use public transport or car share.

Land contamination responsibilities at paper and cardboard production sites

If you operate a paper and cardboard production business, you could be causing land contamination from:

  • spills or leaks of fuel, oil or chemicals from your storage areas
  • pollutants seeping from leaking pipes or poorly maintained drainage systems
  • inappropriate handling or disposal of hazardous substances such as chemicals or fuel

The paper industry uses chemicals and materials that can cause contamination, including:

  • metals and metallic compounds
  • acids and alkalis
  • inorganic elements and compounds
  • solvents, oils and biocides

Many areas of land in the UK are contaminated by their past use. For example, land could be contaminated where chemicals have seeped into the land from previous industrial activities, or where previous owners have buried waste.

Cleaning up land affected by contamination is called remediation. Remediation ensures that the land no longer presents a risk to human health or the environment.

Responsibilities for cleaning up land contamination

You could be responsible for cleaning up land contamination, for example, if you:

  • develop land that is contaminated
  • cause environmental damage to land
  • cause contamination in breach of your environmental permit

You could be required to clean up land contamination before you are allowed to carry out development.

If you cause serious land contamination that affects the water environment, protected species or habitats, or human health, this can be classed as environmental damage. You could be responsible for land contamination if it is classed as environmental damage. See our guide on dealing with land contamination.

You could also be responsible for land contamination if it is caused by you breaching the terms of your environmental permit. See our guide on environmental permits - who needs one and how to comply.

Responsibilities for cleaning up contaminated land under Part 2A

Contaminated land is a legal term used to describe a specific type of land contamination that is regulated under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Part 2A deals with the UK’s legacy of contaminated land from past uses, such as former factories, mines, steelworks, refineries and landfills.

Your local authority is responsible for identifying contaminated land and making sure it is cleaned up. Land is classed as contaminated land under Part 2A when substances in, on or under it cause, or could cause, significant harm or pollution of surface waters and groundwater.

You could be responsible for cleaning up contaminated land under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act if you:

  • cause or allow any land to be contaminated
  • own or occupy the land, even if you did not cause the contamination

Your local authority or the Environment Agency can serve you with a remediation notice. It will tell you what you must do to clean up the land and when you must carry out the work. A remediation notice can be served on more than one business. You can be prosecuted and may be fined if you do not comply with a remediation notice.

You can remediate contaminated land voluntarily and agree a remediation scheme with your local authority or the Environment Agency.

Find contact details for your local authority.

See our guide on dealing with land contamination.

Good practice

Ask a consultant to carry out a desktop survey and possibly some site investigations to check if land could be contaminated before you purchase it.

Research the history of your site and the activities carried out on it. Investigate any land that could be contaminated and see if you can identify who may have caused any contamination.

Store oil and chemicals safely to avoid causing pollution.

Keep absorbent materials and other containment equipment close to where you might need them. Ensure that they are suitable for the type and quantity of fuel, oil and chemicals you store and use on site. Ensure that your staff know where they are and how to use them properly.

See our guide on chemical storage.

See the page on fuel and oil use responsibilities in our guide on waste and hazardous substance responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.

Have a pollution incident response procedure for dealing with spills and use it with your drainage plan. Ensure that all staff on site know about the procedure and how to put it into practice.

See the page in this guide on pollution incident prevention at paper and cardboard production sites.

Further information

Environment Agency Helpline

03708 506 506

Environment Agency Incident Hotline

0800 80 70 60

Freight Best Practice Order Hotline

0300 123 1250

Energy Saving Trust Fleet Transport Advice Line

0845 602 1425

Noise guidance on the Environmental Protection UK website

Statutory nuisance information

Download Pollution prevention pays guidance)

Download Pollution prevention guideline: General guide to the prevention of pollution (PPG1)

Download Pollution prevention guideline: Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (PPG3)

Download Pollution prevention guideline: Pollution incident response planning (PPG21)

Water company contact details on the Water UK website

Download guidance on Legionnaires’ disease from the HSE website (PDF, 105K)

DVSA work and services information

Air Quality Management Areas in the UK on the Defra website

Vehicle CO2 emissions information on the SMMT website

Air quality on the UK Air Quality Archive website

Fuel-efficient driving tips on the Energy Saving Trust website

Download Pollution prevention guideline: Vehicle washing and cleaning (PPG13)

Building Regulations Approved document H: Drainage and waste disposal on the Planning Portal website

Contact SEPA for further information on carrying waste

Environmental damage guidance

Light and lighting factsheets on the Society of Light and Lighting website

Lighting technology overview on the Carbon Trust website

Contaminated land guidance

Published 2 January 2013