Consultation on potential amendments to the PCBs Regulations for England and Wales

Page 1 of 17

Closes 30 Jun 2023

Introduction and context

This consultation seeks views on proposed changes to the Environmental Protection (Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/1043), as amended by the Environmental Protection (Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/489) ('the PCBs Regulations').

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) belong to a broad family of man-made chemical organic compounds, with a range of toxicities that can cause serious health effects in humans and animals. The use and production of PCBs has been illegal in the UK since 1987. However, PCBs still exist in use, predominantly within equipment in our national energy infrastructure. 

The United Kingdom (UK) is a Party to the Stockholm Convention, a global treaty which lists 31 chemical substances known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), one of which is the group of chemicals PCBs. POPs have four main criteria: they are persistent, toxic, bio-accumulative, and can be transported across international borders.

The Stockholm Convention aims to protect human health and the environment by prohibiting, eliminating or restricting the global production and use of POPs. PCBs are listed in Annex A of the Stockholm Convention for POPs, which means Parties to the Convention must prohibit and/or work towards elimination of these chemicals from production or use.

As a Party to the Stockholm Convention, the UK is committed to restricting and / or eliminating POPs globally and to maintaining our environmental standards. The proposals in this consultation are not intended to lower our existing standards with regards to the management of PCBs. 

In the UK, the retained Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 (the 'retained POPs Regulation') regulates the production, placing on the market, and use of POPs which are banned or restricted under the Stockholm Convention.

The PCBs Regulations, which relate to the control of PCBs in England and Wales, were introduced in 2000, pre-dating the Stockholm Convention on POPs (adopted in 2001) and the broader EU POPs Regulations (developed in 2004 to implement the Stockholm Convention in the EU, and subsequently recast in 2019 as Regulation (EU) 2019/1021).

The PCBs Regulations specifically regulate the use and management of PCBs including the registration of PCB-containing equipment, further to the general regulation of PCBs and other POPs as detailed within the retained POPs Regulations.