The majority of us, either at home or in the office, have become accustomed to keeping electronic records. Filing away reams of
paper is no longer a necessity – thankfully.
We bank online or through mobile apps, receive our credit card statements via websites, and invite people to events through email invitations or texts. Electronic filing systems help us to share information, or to pay suppliers via BACS.
In early 2014, the Environment Agency launched the Electronic Duty of Care (EDOC) system, to help businesses record all of their waste transfer notes online. It’s a system that I am personally very impressed with: helping businesses to receive their waste documentation quickly, and enabling them to store it electronically instead of papers ending up on the wrong desk. The system keeps the document for the relevant amount of time without taking up filing space or wasting paper. And, more importantly, it helps to reduce errors on waste records, which then have to be corrected and re-issued. EDOC should be a boon to businesses, so why has it been slow to catch on across the UK?
Partly, this could be down to the fact that it is voluntary, and hasn’t – to date – been well-marketed. For many, its benefits are still a bit of a mystery. Clearly more promotion is needed, if companies are to benefit from the EDOC offering.
The system is free to use, and secure, which should be an incentive to many in business. You simply create an account on the EDOC system, and invite your waste contractors to join.
The Environment Agency has said that although it really is that simple, there are several myths about EDOC. Mainly, these myths are around costs and data security. Is it really free? Yes, it’s really free. Will everyone be able to see my information? No – only you and your waste carrier can see the information. Will the waste regulator be able to check my records without my knowledge? No – if a regulator wished to see your records, they would have to request to see them, just as they do with paper records.
The Chartered Institute for Wastes Management (CIWM) suggested back in July that the government should ‘seriously consider’ making EDOC mandatory for businesses as this would ‘not only be beneficial, but fundamental, to waste management in the UK’. The House of Commons Environment Audit Committee have voiced that they would like to set a deadline for EDOC to become the mandatory system for recording waste transfers. I am certainly in support of this, given the obvious benefits to business and the environment.
While many may see a ‘mandatory’ system as a burden, it actually could be a benefit to most organisations, particularly those in complex areas such as property management.
For the property and facilities sectors, in particular, EDOC would very effectively help to organise the paperwork for the various waste streams – with tenants, contractors, maintenance teams and others. With the system, there are ways to track all of your waste transfers, check what waste is going out, the weight you are sending out (to reduce), etc. You can easily run reports to monitor all of your non-hazardous waste from a building.
Also, with so many potential errors to be made on a waste transfer note, an electronic system makes sense. Once your correct information is put onto your account, you invite your waste carriers to join. They can produce waste transfer notes correctly the first time – making the legal requirement of keeping correct waste documentation simple.
It could be some time before the EDOC system is made mandatory. Until then, the Environment Agency must continue to promote the benefits of using the system directly to property management companies, landlords and facilities managers to encourage more uptake of the system.
EDOC was promoted at the recent RWM conference in August, but there needs to be more visibility – perhaps at property and FM events, such as MIPIM UK or the Facilities Show – two key calendar events for the sectors.
EDOC is a simple, free, effective tool to help anyone easily manage their waste documentation. If it won’t be mandatory for some time, it at least deserves to be better promoted and utilised.
Article by: Liz Ainslie, Environmental Consultant, Hosking Associates (www.hosking-associates.com)