Update 7 May 2021 the Court of Appeal ( EWCA Civ 584) has, justifiably in my view, overturned. Note ia the discussion of language and the meaning of ‘discard.
In  UKUT 0001 (TCC) Devon Waste Management, Biffa and Veolia v Inland Revenue, the tax and chancery chamber of the Upper Tribunal discussed the classification of ‘fluff’ as waste. The fluff at issue is not the type one may find in one’s pockets (or, dare I say, belly button). Rather, the “black bag” waste material that is disposed of at landfill sites and used by operators as a geomembrane liner and geotextile protection layer.
As Constantine Christofi at RPC reports, (see also UKUT at 22) the first tier tribunal – FTT had earlier found that that the use made of the material disposed of was only an indicator of whether there was an intention to discard the material, and that use was not conclusive in determining whether it was discarded. In the view of the FTT, the use of such material as a protective layer was not sufficient to negate an intention to discard it as it was destined for landfill in any event and because there was no physical difference between that material and the other general waste disposed of at the landfill sites. The FTT therefore held that the disposal of the waste was a taxable disposal by way of landfill: not everything that could be characterised as “use” was sufficient to negate an intention to discard.
The FTT had (UKUT does not at all) considered EU law precedent. UKUT relied on English authority and overturned the FTT’s finding on the basis of the FTT having fallen into the “once waste, always waste” trap (at 74). In deciding like this, UKUT itself in my view may have fallen into the alternative ‘once someone’s waste not that of another’ trap. At 52: ‘An owner of material does not discard it, within the meaning of the statutory provisions, if he keeps and uses it for his own purposes’. Making use of materials for the site operator’s purposes connected with regulatory compliance, when they are deposited in the cell, is use that is necessarily inconsistent with an intention to discard the materials.
This arguably is the kind of single criterion test which when it comes to (EU and UK) waste law has been rejected.
In C-15/19 A.m.a. – Azienda Municipale Ambiente SpA v Consorzio Laziale Rifiuti, Kokott AG opined mid-January. Her opinion relies heavily on the specific provisions which the Landfill Directive 1999/31 includes for what one could effectively call legacy issues in waste management: how does one roll-out stricter requirements, including with respect to polluter pays, unto landfill sites that were already in existence?
I shall not repeat said provisions for the Advocate General does so extensively. Suffice to say that her reasoned roll-out of the polluter pays principle (she puts the onus on the landfill sites’ operators; principles of legal certainty do not allow to charge those having deposited the waste at the site retroactively to pay for longer aftercare) is based to a large degree on the window which the Directive foresaw for Member States to close down sites whom they did not think could be expected to meet the new Directive’s stricter obligations before its lenghthy implementation periods; and on the fact that the operators of these sites, unlike the depositors of waste, can be expected to be properly au fait with its aftercare requirements and hence also of the proper amount of charges to be invoiced to users of the site.
Another good example of EU environmental /waste law not quite being the environmental zealot which its critics often try to make of it.
It is too readily assumed by many that general Member States’ obligations under the EU’s environmental laws are context only, and not really legally binding. In my Handbook of EU Waste law however I report on a number of cases where the European Court of Justice has rebuked Member States for having failed to take measures to attain some of these general objectives. These cases relate to waste law, evidently, however in other cases the Court’s case-law extends this to EU environmental law generally.
One can now add C-153/16 EC v Slovenia to this list. Slovenia had attempted to address the continuation of waste tyres storage and processing at an abandoned quarry, in contravention of an expired environmental permit. The company dug in its heels, ia via prolonged litigation, with storage and processing continuing.
The Court of Justice found that Slovenia had infringed the general duty of care provisions, as well as enforcement obligations of the landfill Directive and the waste framework Directive. (On the related issues with respect to hazardous waste, the Court found the Commission’s infringement proceedings wanting).
Not all that glitters is gold, of course. The direct effect of these general duty of care provisions remains an issue, as does the absence, arguably, in EU law of a duty of care directly imposed upon waste holders and processors. For that, citisens need to pass via national law wich as current case shows, is not always up to scratch.