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Business Waste Management UK

The treatment of waste materials is important for security and environmental protection. As a business owner, you must follow government guidelines on commercial waste management in the United Kingdom. Information in this section explains the 'duty of care' required during the disposal of business waste. Use it to review your responsibilities for waste collection, licence permits, and how to use waste transfer notes.

The ‘Duty of Care’ Responsibilities Include:

  • Keeping waste to a minimum and, in order of priority, prevent, reuse, recycle, or recover waste (see ‘WRAP’ for further details).
  • Sorting and storing business waste safely and securely.
  • Completing a waste transfer note for each load of non-hazardous waste that leaves your premises.
  • Checking your waste carrier is on the public register of waste carriers.
  • Not allowing the illegal disposal of your waste by a carrier and reporting it to Crimestoppers if it happens.

Note: There are additional responsibilities to follow if your business is dealing with hazardous waste materials.

What is Business Waste?

Any waste coming from a commercial activity counts as business waste. The same rule applies to any commercial waste produced from any part of a home used to run a business.

Business or commercial waste also includes byproducts, materials, or substances coming from construction, from demolition, agriculture, or industrial processes.

Note: This section focuses on the legal disposal of business or commercial waste in England. The rules may differ in Northern Ireland, Scotland and in Wales.

Disposing of Commercial Waste Yourself

You will have a commercial waste duty of care to follow if you are disposing of your own waste. You MUST register as a waste carrier if it takes place on a regular basis. Follow the relevant details for licences and permits:

Note: Defra has further information on how to apply for standard rules and bespoke permits for using, treating, storing and disposing of waste.

Shipping Waste between Countries

Strict rules apply when moving waste materials between different countries. For example, you cannot move waste meant for disposal (e.g. for landfill) between countries. As a rule, importing or exporting waste must only be for recovery purposes, such as in energy production.

You can read more on the European and United Kingdom rules on waste import and export. They govern how to ship waste into or out of the country.

Sorting and Storing Commercial Waste

Any commercial enterprise that produces business waste will need to store it safely and securely, by:

  • Storing the waste in a secure and appropriate place.
  • Using suitable containers that will stop waste escaping and with covers that stop it blowing away.
  • Using waterproof covers if rain water could cause contaminated runoff or if it would prevent reuse.
  • Labelling the storage containers clearly on the type of waste they contain.

In addition, you must store different types of waste separately. The main purpose is to stop wastes contaminating each other, and:

  • It will be easier to reuse them.
  • You will be able to meet the requirements of the waste transfer note.

Waste Transfer Note Requirements

Moving any load of non-hazardous waste off your premises means you need a waste transfer note or a document that contains the same information (e.g. an invoice).

You can use electronic or paper form for a duty of care waste transfer note for moving waste. Even so, registering your business online with edoc means you will be able to:

  • Fill in a waste transfer note for each single load of waste.
  • Create a season ticket that meets the requirements for a series of loads.

The legal responsibilities for the business disposing of the waste, and the business taking it, include:

  1. Filling in all the relevant sections of the waste transfer note that apply and signing the document.
  2. Keeping a copy of all waste transfer notes for at least two (2) years.
  3. Showing it to an enforcement officer from the Environment Agency or the local council (if asked to do so).

Note: It is a requirement to include sufficient information in the document to help the business taking the waste to handle and dispose of it in a safe manner.


Battery Waste Collection

Retailers and distributors must comply with the collection of portable batteries according to the battery ‘take back’ scheme.

Classifying Different Types of Waste

The Environment Agency uses some technical guidance to classify different types of waste produced in the United Kingdom. The section explains how to manage and dispose of:

  • Construction and demolition waste
  • Packaging waste and recyclables
  • Electronic and electrical equipment
  • Vehicle and oily wastes
  • Healthcare and related wastes

Dealing with Hazardous Waste

Duties and licences are in place to reduce the detrimental impact of hazardous waste. The section explains the different processes for managing hazardous waste generated by business, including:

  • Responsibilities of waste producers and holders
  • The role of waste carriers and consignees
  • Consignment notes and consignee returns

Electrical Waste Collection

The guide explains when you must offer a free collection service for used electricals (WEEE) and how UK waste collection and compliance schemes work.

Oil Storage Regulations

The information in this section clarifies how to store oil safely at your home or business (e.g. in a bunded tank or bowser) and which regulations you must follow to avoid pollution penalties.
Note: You can search online for a local hazardous waste disposal service to help you get rid of dangerous items (e.g. batteries and chemicals).

Packaging Waste Environmental Regulations

You will need to follow certain environmental regulations in the United Kingdom if your business operation designs, fills, or imports packaging.

Amounts of Materials

Any packaging used needs to meet the minimum requirements on volume and weight to keep the product hygienic and safe.

Hazardous Substances

There are certain limits placed on heavy metals when used in packaging (e.g. cadmium, mercury, lead, and hexavalent chromium). If used, the packaging materials must not exceed heavy metal concentration limits of 100ppm (parts per million).

Biodegradable Packaging

Any packaging designed for composting must be biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms).

Packaging for Energy Recovery

The design of some packaging means it can be disposed of through energy recovery (energy through burning materials). In this case, it must contain at least 50% of organic materials that burn, such as cardboard, paper, or wood.

Recyclable Types of Packaging

The design of any recyclable packaging must be such that a certain percentage of the materials can be recycled.

Reusable Packaging

Design and composition of reusable packaging means it can be used several times. It needs to meet the requirements for composting, energy recovery, or recycling, once it’s been reused.

Note: If you are involved in the placing of packaged goods on the market you can read further detailed guidance on packaging regulations.

Septic Tanks

The section explains septic tank regulations (including small sewage treatment plants), how the general binding rules work, and how to apply for an environmental permit in the United Kingdom.

Using Waste Carriers

Checking that a waste carrier is registered, and will dispose it ‘legally’, is a duty of care for householders. Moreover, failing to meet this duty of care can result in a fine up to £400 (e.g. if the waste is fly-tipped).
Note: You can check their credentials online via the register of waste carriers, brokers and dealers before you hire someone to remove your waste (e.g. a rogue ‘man and van’ rubbish remover advertising their services on Facebook).

Contacting Organisations about Business Waste

Environment Agency (England)

Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 03708 506 506
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Telephone: 03000 99 66 9
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm

Natural Resources Wales
Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 0300 065 3000
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland)
Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 028 9054 0540
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
Information on phone call charges.

Note: HPTs give support to health professionals (e.g. local disease surveillance). You can search online to find your local health protection team (HPT) in England.

Business or Commercial Waste Management in United Kingdom