What the law says
What does the law say I must do?
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (and subsequent amendments) places a ‘Duty of Care’ on all businesses over the waste they produce. This means you, as owner or operator, have a legal responsibility to make sure the waste your business generates is disposed of correctly, wherever you are working.
How can I dispose of my waste correctly?
You must ensure that:
- All waste from your business is kept secure until it’s collected
- Anyone collecting waste from your business is registered with the Environment Agency to carry waste
- You keep records proving that a registered waste carrier collected it and where it was disposed of ie. an accredited recycling facility or waste transfer station
It is deemed that you are breaking the law to get rid of waste from your business by putting it in a street side bin, or by treating it as household waste and using the Council’s domestic refuse collection service.
You need to register with the Environment Agency if you do any of these as part of your business:
- Transport waste
- Buy, sell or dispose of waste
- Arrange for someone else to buy, sell or dispose of waste
It is worth doing it sooner rather than later as you can be fined up to £5,000 if you don’t register. Registration is usually free if you only transport waste you produce yourself.
Business waste includes any waste that comes from:
- Any commercial activity – including one you operate from your own home
When I put my waste out for collection is it still my responsibility?
Yes, it is your responsibility to ensure your waste is kept in a secure container that prevents pollution of the local environment.
If waste does escape and causes harm to people or the environment, the person responsible for the waste could be prosecuted.
I am being approached by people offering money to remove my scrap metal. Is this ok?
It may be tempting to pass your scrap metal to such people, particularly if they offer to pay you for it. However, many people who operate in this way do not have a mobile collector’s licence, issued by the council, to carry scrap metal and you would commit an offence by passing your scrap metal on to them.
It is also illegal to buy/sell scrap metal for cash. Unlicensed dealers may also offer to take away other waste along with any scrap metal - which is often found fly-tipped elsewhere. In such cases, you could be held responsible for not meeting your Duty of Care.
How do I avoid getting caught out?
- Always ask to see a Waste Carrier’s Registration
- Prove you are meeting your Duty of Care
- Always insist a Waste Transfer Note is completed
What should I do with Hazardous and Electrical Waste?
Many businesses produce waste that is harmful to health or the environment. This includes items such as paints, waste motor oils/filters, fluorescent tubes, televisions, fridges or other chemicals which can be flammable, corrosive or toxic.
If you think you produce hazardous waste you should contact the Environment Agency for advice. The disposal of electrical equipment is also covered by specific regulations and you should contact the Environment Agency for further advice.
The cost of getting it wrong
What you need to know?
Remember, it is a criminal offence for failing to:
- Sort and store waste safely and securely
- Check if your waste carrier is registered to dispose of waste
- Complete a waste transfer note for each load of waste that leaves your premises
- Check the waste carrier’s destination of your waste, to ensure you follow a duty of care
A Fixed Penalty Notice of £80 can be issued if you fail to comply with a notice requiring you to contain your waste properly. A Fixed Penalty Notice of £300 may also be issued for failing to produce Waste Transfer Notes on request.
Alternatively, for these and a variety of other offences, you may be prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court and face fines of up to £50,000 or 12 months in prison.
Serious offences may be dealt with at Crown Court, which can impose an unlimited fine and/or two years in prison.
What is a registered waste carrier?
A registered waste carrier is a business which holds registration with the Environment Agency for the transportation of waste.
You can check if a company is a registered waste carrier by contacting the Environment Agency.
What information must be on a Waste Transfer Note?
When waste is passed from one person to another, the person taking the waste must have a written description of the waste (to include the relevant European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code and Supplier Industry Classification (SIC) code which say how, what and why gave rise to the waste being created).
A waste transfer note must be filled in and signed by both persons involved in the transfer, and also contain the address of the production of the waste and a signed declaration. Waste Transfer Notes must be issued every time a collection is made.
Why do I have to keep a record of who collects my waste?
The law says it’s your responsibility to make sure your waste doesn’t end up as an environmental hazard/ fly-tip or other litter. You must keep a record to prove that you arranged for a registered waste carrier to collect your waste. If you can’t prove this, you can be prosecuted.
What records do I have to keep?
The law says you must keep a copy of waste transfer notes for at least two years and the Council and/or the Environment Agency can demand to see them at any time. If you can’t produce them, even if you had one and lost it, you will be in breach of your Duty of Care.
Left: Waste Carrier Registration example, Right: Waste Transfer Note Example
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