What is considered as waste and how is it managed correctly?

Dealing with waste and ensuring a safe and clean work environment is not an easy task. According to the Government Guidance Waste Regulations (2011), waste is defined as ‘any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’.  The regulations also define the Waste Hierarchy as a priority list for the management of waste with the best environmental outcome at the top (Waste prevention) and the worst at the bottom (Landfill).

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides further information on how specifically an organisation could make provision for the management of pollution from industrial processes. Additionally, contains the key management actions of defining controlled waste, municipal, commercial and industrial wastes.

Managing all type of waste requires a duty of care on anyone who produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste and all have their own responsibility for ensuring their waste does not cause pollution or harm to human health

By following this simple checklist below, you will be able to comply with the legislation

  • Check your containers are well-constructed and clearly labelled.
  • That where you store them is suitable and safe.
  • Your carrier is registered.
  • The company you send it to is permitted for your waste.
  • You get a copy of the collection note (Can be electronic).
  • For hazardous waste, a receipt of waste acceptance from disposal site.
  • You keep the records for 3 years.
  • Chain of responsibility for storing, transporting and receiving.

The regulatory entity is a separate agency for each country.  In England ‘Environment Agency’, in Wales ‘Natural Resource Wales’, in Scotland ‘Scottish Protection Agency’ and in Northern Ireland ‘Environment Agency’.  All work together under a memorandum of understanding to ensure waste moving from one country to the next are managed correctly.

What if I don’t handle my waste properly?

Improper waste management affects the overall economy of a country. Moreover, the environment also faces a great threat due to pollution, spills, and discharge of chemicals which may cause water and soil contamination around other major problems. Also, it increases the risk the health and safety of your workplace and potentially leads to financial penalties.

The financial penalties for incorrectly disposing of waste and for breaking the law include;

  1. Fixed penalties – up to £400
  2. Enforcement undertakings which are voluntary contributions in lieu of prosecution. For example, water companies and household names such as Barclays Bank have agreed to a series of enforcement undertakings with the Environment Agency, the largest being £306,509 from Severn Trent Water for an unpermitted discharge in 2016.
  3. Convictions as Magistrates Court max £50K fine and 1-year imprisonment, Crown Court unlimited fine and up to 5 years in jail.




Rob Walker

Rob joined Safetykleen as a young lad back in 1994. In his 26 years with us, he has held various positions including dangerous goods safety advisor for our parts cleaning business and chemist at our solvent recycling centre, through to the current position of UK Technical Manager. Rob has a Master’s Degree in Chemistry, has been a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) for over 10 years, where he sits on the specialist interest groups for hazardous waste and waste regulation. He is also a member of the waste industry/Environment Agency joint working group on wastes classification.