Readers hopefully will remember the posting on 21 October that detailed the harsh penalties for breaking the laws on waste packaging. To embellish on the story further, the Environment Agency was given, on 4 January 2011, new civil powers to enforce the laws on waste packaging. The powers, granted under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, aren't intended to replace the criminal sanctions that are available to the regulator; they are designed to be another weapon in the armoury, and one which is more flexible and easier to administer.
The civil penalty regime allows for Fixed Monetary Penalties for offences with minor or no direct environmental impact such as paperwork or administration offences. FMPs are set at £300 for business and £100 for individuals with discounts for early payment; Variable Monetary Penalties are for more serious offences and are in place of criminal sanctions to either remove the benefit of the illegal activity or to change the offenders behavior - they can be as high as £250000; Compliance Notices aim to get the offender to comply; Restoration Notices are to force the offender to repair any damage done; Stop Notices aim to prevent an activity that may lead to damage or harm; and Enforcement Undertakings mean an offender signs a legally binding agreement to desist from the activity.
No doubt we will see these new powers being exercised if for no other reason that to prove that the authorities have teeth.