Controlling Environmental Pollution in UK

Last Updated: 17 Jun 2020
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Environmental pollution has been a huge concern since many centuries even in a number of developed nations which were characterized by old civilizations and well settled societies that were later on modified by industrialization and modernization that brought in the need for effective waste disposal and implementation of appropriate and effective measures to reduce the extent of land, water, noise, air and countryside pollution. Noise pollution and air pollution became a major concern only after a few decades following the industrial revolution and attention was given to resolve these issues only after major incidents were witnessed across many places in the world such as the London Smog incident in 1952 that necessitated the country’s parliament to take immediate action and pass legislations (Clay & Bassett, 1999, pp. 731-740). River pollution on the other hand also became a great concern at a much later stage when most of the inland rivers had been contaminated with industrial effluents, sewage discharge and untreated wastes. Though the major rivers such as the Thames have become much less polluted and support many fishes after massive efforts that have been taken over the years, other smaller and less popular rivers in interior parts of UK are still being polluted (Farmer, 1997, p. 105). A more detailed introspection of the measures taken by UK is warranted to understand the effects of parliamentary legislations in prohibiting environmental pollution.

Controlling Air Pollution

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Air pollution in UK has been a major concern since many decades and a continuous problem owing to the extent of industrial contaminants, air borne particulate matter and dust. The Dutch Expert committee on Occupational Safety (2010, pp. 20- 74) performed a detailed examination of the level of endotoxins in the air borne atmosphere in various parts of UK. This committee recommended a 90 EU/m3 exposure level to ensure that people do not suffer from respiratory tract diseases due to inhalation of endotoxins though patients with respiratory tract illness, those with asthma and smokers were part of the high risk group.

Another regulation that has helped control the release of fluorinated carbons into the atmosphere is the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2009. An effective way to reduce these emissions would be by monitoring the extent of F-Gas Usage and indifferent sectors and in turn controlling their emissions. The Impact assessment carried out by Defra (2009, 1-107) laid down standards for improving checking, labelling, checking leakage, certification and registration for industries mainly associated with fire protection, stationary and mobile air conditioning and refrigeration, high voltage operations, switch gear and solvent cleaning.

The Air Standards Regulations 2010 provides a detailed assessment of the emissions of various pollutants and particulate matter that can be controlled as a duty of the state by measuring at multiple points and checking for the effectiveness of pollution prevention protocol implementation. This regulation defines a clear classification of the various kinds of pollutants categorized as hydrocarbons, particulates, metals, effluents, dust, and ozone depleting pollutants and so on.

Hence, this has also proven to be an effective measure to help the state take necessary action to curb and check activities that lead to greater atmospheric pollution. At the same time, it provides a detailed review of the steps that are to be taken for appropriate and regular checking as a part of the state’s efforts in regulating polluting activities.

These regulations have helped to elucidate the high level of air particulate pollutants in UK and bring their emission under control. Though the improvement in initial stages till early parts of the twenty first century had been less and slow moving, the developments that have occurred over the later decades have shown significant improvements in making UK part of a better pollution controlled league.

Controlling Water Pollution

Water pollution is another area that has required massive inputs and efforts in the UK. In earlier days, emissions of chemicals and industrial effluents into nearby water bodies were common practise. Due to this, inland rivers and lakes were greatly polluted and contaminated also making them unfit for water borne fishery and marine harvesting. River catchment management and maintaining water quality took utmost priority during the later half of the twenty first century and a number of regulations were formed to ensure that the water is not polluted further and steps were taken to recycle the wastes and contaminants to improve existing water quality.

Ground water abstraction, mineral extraction, waste water management for discharge and effluents have posed a huge concern to UK and are now being handled by the river catchment management. The control of Pollution Act in 1974 began to tighten the quality of river water through stringent regulation of water polluting activities and polluting industries.

This set up a consent-based system for compliance, regular sample collection, testing and procedures for sample collection. It laid regulations on the volume, site of outfall and nature of discharges. These have been quite successful in reducing the extent of harmful effluents reaching water bodies though extensive efforts are still required to redeem all water bodies and reduce the risks due to pollution and subsequent water body contamination.

Farmer explained that Surface water Directive (75/440/EEC) set out the requirements for quality of drinking water and classified as basic filtration, physical and chemical treatment and extensive physical and chemical treatment to distinguish the three major categories of drinking water. When the water is not purified as per these protocols, it is deemed unfit for drinking, is not certified and subsequently looked down and not consumed by the public in UK (1997, p. 107).

Controlling Noise Pollution

Noise pollution in UK has also been a matter of great concern and the Pollution control act also address these issues. This gave a the society the right to report instances of excessive noise pollution and require the corresponding activities such as work at a construction site to be re-modelled to produce lesser noise.

The control of Noise at work Regulations 2005 was successful in bringing about noise reduction in work environments. According to these regulations, employees have the duty of assessing noise levels at their work places and also required to follow hearing protection guidelines according t which hearing protection must be supplied to workers when the noise level reached 80 db and workers are to compulsorily wear hearing protection gear when the noise level goes any higher and greater than 80db.

Controlling Land Pollution

Land pollution has been an area of huge concern especially due to waste disposal on land masses. The environment protection act of 1990 set out rules to help the state manage land pollution by allowing local authorities to carry out land inspections to ensure that they are not contaminated and also take necessary action of clean up and waste disposal for land recovery.

Many organizations including DEFRA and the Environment agency are devising schemes to bring about better land redemption techniques and their effective implementation. Along with this effective strategies for land filling and biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste management are being framed to better manage land resources and prevent their pollution.

Waste Management

Waste Management has been an area of huge concern for many decades owing to the volume of wastes produced on a daily basis and the need for effective system of waste segregation, treatment and suitable means of disposal that does not contaminate the ecosystem. Waste management regulations have become increasingly important in imposing stringent guidelines for waste treatment and disposal. This has helped reduce the harmful effects of improper waste disposal and bring in greater responsibility from industries and individuals in managing non-biodegradable and hazardous waste.

The Environment Agency (2010, pp. 2-18)in UK has framed a waste sector plan in which a three year evaluation for 2006 to 2009 was carried out and a detailed report to manage wastes was prepared. The Environment agency has also set out a process for waste collection, subsequent treatment, recovering energy materials and products from wastes and disposal using land filling and other methods. These methods also incorporate safety and health preservation as vital aspects.

As a result of the sustained efforts, the waste strategy annual progress report given by DEFRA for 2008/90 (p. 4) had shown significant reductions in household waste amounting to about 26%, biodegradable waste land filling to about 8% and a 9% reduction in illegal waste activity such as flytipping. This shows the positive growth that UK has made in the direction of waste management though the management of hazardous waste still proves to be a concern.

Animal Life protection and country side preservation

Preservation of wild life and country side in UK has been a long sought after need that has been established through laws in recent years. The country side commission in 1989 set out a few methods to ensure that the country side remains unaltered and undisturbed in the future. This has been brought about more extensively by society based organizations that might even be non-governmental such as the Sid Vale Association and other organizations such as the Campaign to protect rural England that have been successful in preserving the green belts in England and sustaining the ecosystem through public initiative.

Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000

One of the strong measures adopted against pollutions and its prevention in UK includes the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000 which details the requirements for installation of treatment plants, using effective techniques, defining pollutants, acquiring relevant permits for working conditions and requirements that emanate pollutants and compensations in relation to off-site conditions. These are important parameters that determine the effectiveness of these regulations to being about pollution control. This set of regulations is common to business setups such as power generation, manufacturing, waste management, intensive pig and poultry farming and other industries related to landfill sites and solvents. This broad classification has helped to bring about streamlining of many areas including emissions to land, water and air, emergency efficiency, waste reduction, raw material consumption, noise, vibration and heat reduction, accident prevention and conditioning the site preserve surrounding natural resources. Hence, this has brought about a major compliance standard for industrial and other setups in UK towards environmental preservation and pollution prevention.


A number of regulations and legislative measures have been implemented in UK over a sustained period of time. Though some of these measures may not have materialized as they are difficult to check and assess on a continuous basis, significant improvements have resulted in over all pollution prevention and control.

The efficacy of these regulations to act as regulatory and compliance norms for industries has been noteworthy. Especially the regulations that have been set out in the area of water pollution and waste management have been successful in raising the levels of water quality and reducing pollution due to contaminants. Other areas such as air pollution require a much more detailed introspection as they are more extensive in nature when it comes to contributory elements. The steps taken to control air pollution from the point of view of reviewing by state, permits for industrial setups, regulatory compliance for industrial emissions and air quality checking at different points have now evolved into suitable methods to combat the multi faceted aspects of continually increasing variations of air pollutants.

The waste management regulations are now being implemented in all industrial sectors and are hence reducing the burden of solid waste and contaminants on the environment through the adoption of appropriate treatment methods. Yet, certain amounts of pollutants eventually reach the water bodies or barren lands which need to be curtailed. The country side preservation has been a more recent initiative and though the originally present natural environment and wild life cannot be regained completely, current efforts will prove to be contributory to improve the existing countryside environment.


Regulatory measures in the UK to control pollution of water and land have been multi-fold, yet they have not reached every part of the country though they are country wide standards. These measures have been successful in bringing down the levels of water and land pollution to a great extent and have also helped to recover water bodies such as Thames River in UK. The improvements in waste management are also noteworthy. Air pollution is one area that requires extensive planning and continuous appraisal due to a number of factors. Better implementation of the regulations already present and the framing of newer regulations to address other needs in the changing international environment will contribute greatly towards sustained improvement and preservation of the natural environment.


Clay, H, H, Bassett, W, H 1999, Clay’s Handbook of Environmental Health, 18th edition, Taylor & Francis, London, UK.

Department for Environment food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, (2000) The Pollution Prevention and Control ( England and Wales) Regulations. London: HMSO.

Department for Environment food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, (2008) Impact Assessment of Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2009. London: HMSO

Department for Environment food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, (2009) Waste Strategy: Annual Progress Report 2008/2009. London: HMSO

Dutch expert Committee on Occupational Safety (DECOS), a Committee of the Health Council of the Netherlands. Endotoxins: Health-based recommended occupational exposure limit. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 2010; publication no. 2010/04OSH

Environmental Agency, EA (2010) Waste Sector Plan: 3 year progress report 2006-2009. A joint report by the environmental services association and environment agency. London: HMSO

Environmental Protection, (2010) The Air Quality Standards Regulation 2010 No 1001. London: HMSO

Farmer, A 1997, Managing Environmental Pollution, Routledge Environmental Management Series, Routledge, London, UK.

Health and Safety at Work, (2006) The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. London: HMSO.

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Controlling Environmental Pollution in UK. (2019, Apr 07). Retrieved from

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