Semple Fraser seals landmark waste ruling

Scottish firm Semple Fraser has scored a key ruling at the Court of Appeal on the legal definition of waste.

The firm, acting for OSS Group, a collector and recycler of waste oils, sought to clear up the definition of waste after the Government and the Environment Agency failed to agree on the official interpretation of when recycled waste ceases to be waste under the European Waste Framework Directive. The ruling held that, if waste was defined in the wrong way, it would have considerable economic significance, as recycled fuel would cost more to incinerate than virgin fuel.

Semple Fraser argued that recycled fuel should not be classified as waste, but should be on par with new fuels.

The Court of Appeal concurred. Lord Justice Carnwath, leading the judgment, held: “I regard the secretary of state’s formulation as too narrow, insofar as it requires the recovered material to be ‘hardly distinguishable’ from an alternative raw material. It is unfortunate that the difficulties of interpreting the pronouncements from Luxembourg are compounded by the failure of the national authorities to agree a common approach.”

Vincent Brown, head of Semple Fraser’s waste group, instructed Robert McCracken QC of Francis Taylor Building, while the Government and Environment Agency, through the Treasury Solicitors instructed Derrick Wyatt of Brick Court Chambers and John Howell QC of Blackstone Chambers.