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Better Waste Regulation Programme

Last updated: 23 June 2015

Managing Northern Ireland’s waste through modern and effective regulation is essential to Northern Ireland’s environment, economy and social well-being. Both the regulator and the regulated need a system of controls that are effective, streamlined and risk-based.

With challenging targets set by Europe for landfill diversion and carbon reduction, we are moving away from the previous practices and mindset of throwing things away and from our dependency on landfill. Furthermore, particularly given the economic downturn, we are realising that being more efficient with our resources can help benefit the environment as well as our pockets. With this in mind we are modernising waste regulation in a number of ways that helps businesses with their bottom line while still conferring a high degree of protection for human health and the environment.

Regulatory position statements

The Better Regulation Team is driving a number of projects forward within our organisation which contribute to the Better Waste Regulation Programme. We are introducing regulatory position statements which seek to clarify industry’s responsibilities on waste issues, simplifying and removing the requirement for waste management controls where possible. A good example of this is our newly published guidance on the sustainable reuse of clean, greenfield soil in construction (.PDF 658Kb)Opens in New window.

Waste 'Quality Protocols'

We are introducing Quality Protocols which describe how to fully recover waste materials and turn them into valuable waste-derived products. The economic and environmental benefits of this project alone are huge.

EQual Project

NIEA is working in partnership with the Environment Agency in GB on a major EU Life+ funded programme that aims to encourage quality products made from waste. The EQual programme builds on and expands the Environment Agency’s Quality Protocols initiative and provides a framework to help waste producers and processors to meet the end of waste criteria under the EU Waste Framework Directive.

The main objectives of the EQual programme are to:

  • Assess the environmental impacts of waste-derived products through field trials on four materials.
  • Develop a Quality Protocol (QP) Checker web tool to enable waste producers to self-assess whether their waste derived product complies with an existing Quality Protocol (which sets out the conditions under which a particular waste can be considered to have been recovered and is therefore no longer classed as waste)
  • Communicate and disseminate the EQual project findings to stakeholders and relevant audiences in Europe enabling others to learn and benefit from the programme

The first of the outputs from this project is a new online tool to help producers of quality recycled products made from waste .The QP Checker provides an easy, quick and cost effective way for both new and existing producers to check that they meet the QP quality requirements and any other underpinning specifications. The tool creates a user report that documents performance and pinpoints any areas where improvement is needed. It can also be used as an internal audit check and will support a more robust and consistent compliance regime.

The QP Checker web tool can be found at

More information about the EQual programme can be found on the EA’s websiteOpens in New window

Online applications and payments

We are developing online applications and payment facilities which will simplify and speed up the application process. You can access these in our Apply Online section.

Risk Assessment Model (RAM)

The Agency’s regulatory risk assessment model has been developed and as work is completed it will drive the key Better Regulation principles (.PDF 745Kb)Opens in New window and in particular it will assist in the deployment of resources proportionate to environmental risk. As the model is refined it will influence the frequency of inspections and in time the level of fees and charges.

Effectiveness of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) for Better Regulation

We undertook a study to statistically quantify the effectiveness of formalised EMS such as those certified to the ISO 14001 standard. The study looked at both permitted and non permitted organisations. The report concluded that a formally certified EMS is likely to provide more robust evidence of increased awareness and compliance with environmental legislation and those with a formal EMS are more likely to have made environmental improvements in the last 5 years than those with informal or no EMS. The full report can be viewed on our Effectiveness of Environmental Management Systems page.

Case studies showing business benefits of good environmental practices

We are often telling businesses that it doesn’t have to cost money to comply with environmental regulations, and that in fact being resource and energy efficient can save businesses money. We are producing case studies which demonstrate the benefits that have been brought about within local businesses of adopting good environmental practices.

Streamlined permitting

We are conducting an extensive scoping study to assess our options for streamlining our licensing and permitting systems. The scoping study is looking at current practices among UK regulators, assessing various options which would enable the Agency to deliver streamlined permitting regimes. The findings will be taken forward in the emerging 'White Paper on Better Environmental regulation'.

Business Seminars

In partnership with ARENA Network and Industry, we are delivering a series of sector specific and legislative specific seminars to Northern Ireland businesses. The purpose of these seminars are to advise businesses on the purpose and aims of the regulations, assist in the compliance of regulations and demonstrate the benefits of good environmental practice.

We continue to work closely with industry and trade associations to find out what really matters to them and have sought to change our practices accordingly.

Contact us

We want to hear from you. We welcome the views of all our stakeholders and want to know if there is anything that we can do better