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Greater London Authority Act 1999

Sections 353 to 361: Municipal waste management

535.The Environmental Protection Act 1990 ("EPA '90"), as amended by the Environment Act 1995, is the main legislation on waste management in England and Wales. It provides that responsibility for waste management should lie with waste collection authorities and waste disposal authorities. In London, the London borough councils act both as waste collection authorities and as waste disposal authorities. However, in a number of cases, London borough councils work together to carry out their functions as waste disposal authorities through statutory joint waste disposal authorities created by the Waste Regulation and Disposal (Authorities) Order 1985 (SI 1985/1884):

East London:North London:Western Riverside:
Barking and DagenhamBarnetHammersmith and Fulham
HaveringCamdenKensington and Chelsea
Waltham Forest
West London:

536.Other London borough councils act individually as waste disposal authorities:

GreenwichTower Hamlets

537.EPA '90 places a duty on waste collection authorities to produce waste recycling plans, which contain details of how they will deal with municipal waste and, in particular, make provision for recycling.

538.Work by a cross-sectoral review group, set up by the Department of the Environment, gave rise to the concept of joint municipal waste management strategies. The review group recommended that waste collection authorities and waste disposal authorities work together to produce more comprehensive plans addressing all waste management options (e.g. waste minimisation, recycling, composting, incineration etc) that may be used in dealing with municipal waste.

539.The 1995 White Paper "Making Waste Work" set out governmental policy on waste. Amendments to EPA '90 made by the Environment Act 1995 require the Secretary of State to prepare a statement containing his policies in relation to the recovery and disposal of waste in England. The Government is currently reviewing the national waste strategy, a draft strategy “A Way With Waste” was published in June 1999, and the final strategy will be published in Spring 2000.

540.The municipal waste management strategy is one of the strategies to which sections 41 to 44 of the Act apply. Those sections make provision which applies to all of the Mayor's strategies, and which require the Mayor to follow certain procedural steps in relation to strategies, including matters to which he is required to have regard, and persons he is required to consult. Sections 353 to 359 of the Act contain provisions relating  to the Municipal Waste Management Strategy.

541.Section 353 of the Act places an obligation on the Mayor to prepare and publish a municipal waste management strategy for Greater London. This will include proposals and policies for the recovery, treatment and disposal of municipal waste originating in Greater London.

542.When preparing the municipal waste management strategy the Mayor must have regard to waste recycling plans prepared by waste collection authorities in Greater London. In preparing or revising the strategy the Mayor must have regard to the national waste strategy and any guidance issued by the Secretary of State to him for the purpose of implementing, or relating to the content of, the strategy. The Secretary of State has power to issue a direction about the content of the strategy if he considers either that the strategy or its implementation is likely to be detrimental to any area outside Greater London, or that a direction is needed to enable the policies in the national waste strategy to be implemented.

543.When preparing or revising the strategy, the Mayor will be required to consult:

  • The Environment Agency,

  • Waste disposal authorities in Greater London,

  • Any waste disposal authority which has a boundary which adjoins Greater London,

  • Local authorities in whose areas waste which originates in Greater London is disposed of, or is proposed to be dispose of,

  • Any other body which is concerned with the minimisation, recovery, treatment or disposal of waste in Greater London, and which the Mayor considers it appropriate to consult,

  • Bodies and persons set out in section 42 of the Act.

544.It is important that the Mayor has the means to ensure that the policies in his strategy are given effect. Section 356(1) therefore gives the Mayor, where he considers it necessary for the implementation of the municipal waste management strategy, the power to issue a direction to waste collection and waste disposal authorities in Greater London to carry out a function in a specified manner. Sections 357(5) and 358(3) give the Mayor power to issue a direction requiring an authority to provide him with such information as he deems necessary to determine if the authority’s proposed waste contracts would be detrimental to the implementation of the strategy.

545.Section 360(5) provides that for the purposes of sections 356(1), 357(5) and 358(3) of the Act until the municipal waste strategy is published references to the municipal waste strategy shall have effect as if such references were to the national waste strategy. This will enable the Mayor, in the circumstances set out in those sections, to issue a direction before the municipal waste strategy is published.

546.Waste management in practice is largely dealt with by the private sector, through waste contracts let by local authorities. Authorities’ actions are limited by these contracts, which can cover periods of up to 25 years and involve large amounts of capital investment. Therefore, the Mayor’s effectiveness in this area is to some extent dependent on the influence, through his power of direction, he has over existing and new contracts. Long-term contracts should make allowances for some flexibility and adjustment, which will allow the Mayor some room for manoeuvre. But the Mayor cannot use the power of direction to require an authority to exercise a “break clause” in a contract.

547.The Mayor’s power to issue directions under section 356(1) in relation to existing waste contracts is limited. The Mayor can not direct a waste collection or disposal authority to take any action which would require them to terminate a contract before its expiry date, or to do anything which would result in a breach of any term of a contract. Since some of the information supplied to the Mayor under sections 357 and 358 may be commercially sensitive, the Mayor and his staff are prevented from disclosing information provided by an authority which, in the opinion of that authority, would be exempt or confidential information as defined in the Local Government Act 1972. This will allow the authority itself to claim the protection of section 359 in any particular case but it will be necessary for the information concerned to meet the criteria of the 1972 Act.

548.Because of the size of many waste contracts (especially waste disposal contracts which can run to tens of millions of pounds) they are caught under public procurement regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972. When contracts are caught under these regulations there are special requirements concerning seeking offers in relation to the proposed contracts and confidentiality. When an authority seeks offers under the public procurement procedures, it must generally publish two notices in the Official Journal of the European Communities – the first containing general information as to, for example, the nature and extent of services to be provided, the second notice advertising the authority’s invitation to seek offers. The first is usually very general in nature, the second more specific. Once this second notice is published the authority cannot substantially alter the terms without having to go through the procedure again. The Mayor’s powers in relation to the contract cease to be exercisable once the second notice has been sent for publication to the Official Journal of the European Communities.

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