Business owners have a legal obligation to ensure that waste is removed from their premises and processed for recycling or disposed of at landfill sites.
The majority of businesses will employ a contractor to collect and dispose of waste – though some small businesses may prefer to do so themselves. Whether you use a contractor or dispose of waste yourself, understanding the types of waste removal and the associated regulations is essential.
Duty of Care for Business Waste
Businesses have a number of responsibilities when it comes to handling waste – this is described as their ‘Duty of Care’. The main principles that apply under this duty are as follows:
- Keep waste to a minimum by taking all reasonable steps to ‘prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste’.
- Waste must be sorted and stored safely. Different types of waste must be stored separately to ensure they do not contaminate each other.
- Fill in a ‘waste transfer note’ for each consignment of waste that is disposed of from your business premises.
- Ensure that your contractor (if you use one) does not dispose of waste illegally (by fly-tipping, for example). Legally, businesses are obliged to report any illegal waste disposal to the police via the ‘Crimestoppers’ number.
List of Waste Requirements
Any waste that your business produces must be classified and described before it is disposed of. The description must include the following information:
- The classification codes for the type of waste. These are known as the ‘LoW’ (List of Waste) or the EWC (European Waste Catalogue).
- Hazardous waste must be identified – the EWC codes will help you to identify hazardous materials.
- The type of business that produced the waste.
- The name of any substances being disposed of.
- The way in which the waste was produced.
- Any specific problems, issues, requirements or knowledge that relate to your waste.
Waste produced by different industries is broken down into several sub-categories within the EWC codes. The main types and categories are explored below.
Construction Industry Waste
The sub-categories within this industry are as follows:
- Insulation, including asbestos and materials containing asbestos. The majority of insulation materials will fall under the ‘Hazardous’ definition and will be covered by the ‘Hazardous Waste Regulations’.
- Concrete, brick, tiles and ceramics. Generally these will fall under non-hazardous classifications, though materials used in their manufacture may have a bearing on this.
- Wood, glass and plastics.
- Bituminous mixtures, coal or tar.
- Metallic waste (including cables).
- Soil, stones, dredging spoil and contaminated soil.
- Paints and Varnishes.
- Adhesives and Solvents.
Most packaging waste (both domestic and commercial) will be recyclable. Material should be cleaned and stored separately from other waste. The duty to reduce the amount of waste your business produces means that all businesses will need to consider sorting recyclable material from their general waste.
The regulations do allow for your contractor to collect mixed waste, but this must be taken for sorting at a registered facility.
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Electrical Equipment Waste
Electrical equipment will include batteries, light bulbs or lamps, televisions, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Most of these devices will contain hazardous components and will therefore be covered by the Hazardous Waste Regulations.
Fridges, chillers, freezers and air conditioning units also fall under the Electrical Equipment category, as do other white goods including washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dyers.
Vehicles and Oil Waste
Vehicles and oils are covered by a range of regulations. They typically fall under one of four main categories:
- Fluids and oils – these must be disposed of separately and not mixed. This will include mineral oils, brake fluid, anti-freeze and washer fluids. Most vehicle oils and fluids will be classed as hazardous. These included fuel oil/diesel and petrol.
- Vehicles and components – this includes the vehicles themselves which will fall under hazardous regulations if not de-polluted. Components include oil filters and those containing PCBs or mercury.
- Air-bags and brake pads also fall under separate categories, as do batteries and catalytic converters.
- For contractors disposing of vehicles – clothing and absorbent materials will also need to be disposed of according to the regulations and are classified as ‘contaminated materials’.
Healthcare waste must be disposed of by a suitably qualified contractor. Full guidance for the safe management of health care waste can be found on the UK government site. Types of waste from healthcare, including veterinary practices, are outlined below.
- Offensive Waste – generally defined as waste that is not clinical or infections but may be unpleasant to those who come into contact. This includes dressings, protective clothing and bodily fluids. This category also includes nappies, sanitary protection and incontinence products.
- Plaster waste – this is generally considered non-infectious but any infectious plaster waste must be stored and disposed of separately.
- Waste medicines – household waste medicines should be returned to a pharmacy or GP surgery.
- Anatomical waste – this is separated into waste that is infectious or non-infections and includes anatomical waste that has been chemically preserved.
- Bagged Clinical waste; this is defined as either infections or non-infections.
- Laboratory chemicals and photo-chemicals – these include film, X-ray products and photo-chemicals. They must be classified as hazardous or non-hazardous as per the technical guides for this type of waste.
Waste Disposal Options
For many businesses, the ideal way in which to dispose of all waste is through a qualified contractor. Most contractors will specialise in a specific type of waste collection – commercial, domestic, clinical and so on. The first step to choosing your contractor is to ensure they have appropriate experience in your specific business area.
The public register of waste carriers, dealers and brokers is available from the Environment Agency website or via the UK government site.
Small businesses may want to dispose of their own waste themselves. Self-employed plumbers, joiners, gardeners etc. may find that this is the most efficient way to deal with waste. In this case you will need to register as a licensed carrier, broker or dealer – again this can be done via the UK government website.