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Old environmental waste

Talking Dirty – An Environmental Blog.

Date: 29/10/2013 | Blogs

For those of you who don’t know me (yet!) I am Laura Tainsh, an environmental and property lawyer from Glasgow, working in Edinburgh and living in North Berwick.

The field of environmental law, and particularly the area of waste, is very heavily regulated. Now some people might think that that makes this a very dry topic for a weekly blog….my challenge is to overcome that view and try to provide some interesting (and hopefully helpful) insights without being too legalistic about it!

Believe it or not, there is a lot going on in the field of environmental law and regulation at the moment, some of it big and some of it not so big, but all of it fairly important for people and businesses in a wide range of sectors.

I’m currently reviewing the latest edition of a book on environmental law (in fact titled as such) which is the ‘bible’ for a lot of practitioners and it got me thinking…what has changed over the last few years that people might not be fully aware of. So I thought I would start a weekly blog to try and get some of the juicy bits out in the open.

This week I’ve been thinking about the following:

  • Who should pay for cleaning up the mess left behind by historic issues such as coal mining? The recent liquidation of The Scottish Coal Company has highlighted both the potentially extortionate cost of environmental remediation and who should be liable for meeting it – the creditors of the company or the public purse if the liquidators are allowed to simply abandon the now contaminated land? Maybe neither is acceptable but at least the creditors had some insight into the risks of what they were investing in at the outset!
  • The concept of ‘Zero Waste’ is everywhere but what does it really mean? I don’t think this blog is long enough to answer that question. However, in practical terms, it means that from next year everyone – local authorities, business and individuals – will be forced to start thinking about waste as a resource (if they are not already!). The Scottish Government wants separate collection of materials (such as food waste), recycling and re-use to become the norm. That will take some time and but the message that what used to be discarded should now put to good use does appear to be spreading. Panorama programmes about litter and up-recycling shops popping up everywhere perhaps suggest a shift in the general mind-set towards ‘waste’. Ps – we are supposed to be doing away with the ‘w’ word completely!
  • With the principle of ‘sustainable development’ being widely used by politicians all over the land, the question of what is the right balance between development on the one hand and protection of the environment on the other has to be asked. How can the conflict of beneficial development such as renewable energy and the aesthetic and ecological impacts that it can have on the landscape be resolved? I think we have to be practical and reasonable about it. Renewable energy is becoming a critical necessity but the brakes are going to be firmly put on its development if wide swathes of the country are pulled into ‘wild land areas’ which cannot be touched. Sensible development which is well-considered and designed has to be allowed otherwise there might not be any at all.

Feel free to comment, compliment or criticise by leaving a post here or contacting me on twitter or linked-in. More hot topics next week!

The matter in this publication is based on our current understanding of the law.  The information provides only an overview of the law in force at the date hereof and has been produced for general information purposes only. Professional advice should always be sought before taking any action in reliance of the information. Accordingly, Davidson Chalmers LLP does not take any responsibility for losses incurred by any person through acting or failing to act on the basis of anything contained in this publication.

Written by

LAURA TAINSH | Davidson Chalmers Stewart
Laura Tainsh

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