Commercial Waste

Legal responsibilities

The ‘right waste, right place’ campaign provides comprehensive information to help businesses comply with the law.

All businesses have legal responsibilities when it comes to disposing of their waste, and must dispose of their waste in a responsible manner. These responsibilities are embodied in a range of legislation including:

  1. Duty of Care (Environmental Protection Act 1990)
  2. Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011
  3. Landfill Directive- Pre-treatment of Waste Regulation 2007

1. Duty of Care (Environmental Protection Act 1990)

Under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and associated regulations all businesses have a ‘Duty of Care’. Under the duty of care anyone who produces, imports, keeps or stores, transports, treats or disposes of waste has a duty to take all reasonable steps to keep it safe. The duty of care applies to all businesses and requires that businesses ensure they produce, store, transport and dispose of their waste without harming the environment. Further there is a requirement, under the Duty of Care Regulations 1991 (the 1991 Regulations), for parties transferring waste to complete and retain a 'transfer note'. Businesses must retain records of waste transfers for a period of no less than 2 years. Failure to provide evidence is an offence and breach of the Duty of Care, with a penalty of up to £5000 on summary conviction or an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment. Under the Clean Neighbourhoods Act 2005 a Fixed Penalty Notice of £300 may be issued by the local Council for failure to provide evidence when requested. We want to work with local businesses to ensure that this does not happen.

This means that a business also has responsibility, or Duty of Care, for checking that whoever collects their waste is licensed to do so and is disposing of it legitimately. For more information please see our Duty of Care Leaflet or see the GOV.UK website.

Waste Transfer Notes (WTN) must also be completed for every transaction of waste. A WTN will include a description of the waste, any processes the waste has been through, how it is contained or packaged, the quantity of waste involved, the place, date and time of transfer, the name and address of both parties, details of the permit, licence or exemption of the person receiving the waste, the appropriate European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code for your waste, a declaration that you have applied the waste management hierarchy and the 2007 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code of the person transferring the waste.

What would happen in cases of non-compliance?

Local Authorities, as well as the Environment Agency, can request to see a business’ waste transfer notes to see if they are complying with the Duty of Care. Businesses must retain records of waste transfers for a period of no less than 2 years. Failure to provide evidence is an offence and breach of the Duty of Care, with a penalty of up to £5,000 on summary conviction or an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment. Under the Clean Neighbourhoods Act 2005 a Fixed Penalty Notice of £300 may be issued by the local Council for failure to provide evidence when requested.

Please note that any unlawful deposition of business, commercial or trade waste at either of Southend’s Household Waste Recycling Centres is considered an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and person(s) responsible may be prosecuted and fined up to £50,000 and/or receive a custodial sentence of up to 5 years upon conviction.

2. The Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2011

Regulation 12 states that producers of waste and collectors of that waste must take all reasonable measures to apply the waste hierarchy. Top priority under the waste hierarchy is given to preventing waste in the first instance. Where waste cannot be prevented, priority is given to preparing it for reuse, then recycling, then recovery such as energy recovery. Disposal is the least favourable option and this of course includes disposal to landfill. For further information regarding the Waste Hierarchy please see the ‘Further page’ below.

As part of their Duty of Care businesses will also need to include a declaration on the transfer notes that the waste hierarchy has been observed.

Regulation 13 establishes requirements for collectors to ensure that separate collections (this includes the option to co-mingle) of dry recyclables – paper, metal, plastic and glass by 1st January 2015.

For further information regarding this requirement please see the GOV.UK website.

3. Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) pre-treatment of waste regulations 2007

Requirements for non-hazardous waste sent to landfill to be pre- treated have been in place since 2007 and all businesses should review how they manage their waste to ensure that this is taking place. Article 6 of these regulations prevents non-hazardous waste which has not been treated first to be sent to landfill. So if a business continues to take its waste to landfill, it must ensure that it is treated first. The most obvious treatment option is recycling but it can also include “physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes, including sorting, that change the characteristics of the waste in order to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling or enhance recovery”.

The primary aim is therefore to increase recycling and recovery of waste in line with the waste hierarchy, and to reduce avoidable polluting emissions from landfill. If your waste is not sent to landfill then these requirements will not affect your business. If it is, then consider how else you might manage your waste – is there a more environmentally-friendly option such as recycling which you could implement?

For further information regarding the pre-treatment requirement please see the GOV.UK pdf.

For further information about managing your waste and your legal obligations see the GOV.UK website.

Page last updated: 19/06/2017