Last reviewed 24 April 2018

Caroline Hand provides a checklist of the practical steps you must take to ensure that your business is compliant with the legislation on hazardous waste.

The previous article in this series explained how waste is classified and described how to assess whether a waste stream is hazardous.

Waste duty of care, as applied to hazardous waste

These duties arise out of the general duty of care which applies to all waste holders (s.34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA)). It is a criminal offence to breach the duty of care.

Describe the waste accurately

Keep accurate written records listing all the hazardous wastes which arise on your premises.

You should note at least the following details:

  • six-digit code from European Waste Catalogue

  • chemical composition

  • hazardous properties (HP) assigned during the classification procedure

  • any other properties which may present a hazard to those handling it, eg flammability/explosion hazard for aerosol cans

  • quantity of waste

  • whether it is solid or liquid, and how it is stored (eg in drums).

Store it safely and separately

The law states that you must not allow the waste to escape. “Escape” includes the leakage of liquids into the soil, surface water or groundwater as well as waste physically falling out of a skip or vehicle. If the waste gives off vapours, odours or fumes, this could be a statutory nuisance. Harmful fumes would constitute a breach of s.33c of the EPA, which makes it an offence to store waste such that it causes damage to the environment or harm to human health.

Ensure hazardous waste is segregated from non-hazardous waste. Remember that even a small amount of residue of a hazardous substance in a container is classified as hazardous waste. If hazardous waste gets into a “general waste” bin or skip, the whole load will have to be consigned as hazardous waste — at considerable cost to you.

Remember that hazardous chemical wastes are just as harmful to your employees as hazardous chemical products, and ensure that they are taken into account in COSHH assessments and health and safety policies.

Make sure you are aware of any hazardous wastes produced by subcontractors, cleaning staff, caterers, etc. Unless their contract makes them expressly responsible for their own waste, you must ensure that they follow your company waste policies and procedures.

In general, hazardous waste should not be stored in open skips. Bins or containers must be robust and suitable for the chemicals involved. If the waste is going to be transported by road, it may require a UN-approved container (eg a yellow UN-approved bin for infectious healthcare wastes).

Transfer it to an authorised person

Registered carrier

First, check that your waste carrier is registered with the environmental regulator (the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) or Scottish Environment Protection Agency). Your company must register if you transport your own business waste.

Environmental permit holder

Non-hazardous waste sometimes goes to “exempt” waste operations in which the waste is used for a beneficial purpose, eg small-scale composting or recycling. Such operations do not require environmental permits; however, any operation involving the recycling or processing of hazardous waste is likely to require a full environmental permit. Check that your waste contractor has a permit and examine it to make sure that it allows them to take hazardous waste. The permit may specify a particular type of hazardous waste, eg a landfill site may be permitted to take asbestos but not chemical residues.

Conscientious businesses often audit their waste contractors to check that hazardous wastes are being transported, handled and treated legally. If your contractor breaks the law, eg by accepting a type or quantity of waste which is not allowed by the permit, you are guilty of a breach of the duty of care.

Fill in the consignment note

Check and sign the hazardous waste consignment note before the waste leaves your premises. Although the contractor normally draws up the note, the waste producer is responsible for ensuring all the information is correct. You will need to include the information from your written description, plus information required under the dangerous goods legislation (ADR).

The hazardous waste consignment note takes the place of the normal waste transfer note which accompanies non-hazardous wastes. You cannot use the online electronic duty of care (edoc) system for hazardous wastes.

Other legislation

Hazardous waste regulations

These requirements apply only to hazardous wastes.

  • In Wales only, notify NRW if you produce more than 500kg of hazardous waste per annum.

  • Do not mix hazardous and non-hazardous wastes (this particularly refers to dilution of hazardous wastes to render them non-hazardous).

  • Follow the consignment note procedure. You will receive quarterly returns from your contractor confirming that the waste arrived safely at the site.

  • Keep your copies of the consignment notes for five years.

If the waste is destined for landfill …

Avoid landfilling hazardous waste if possible. Hazardous waste can only be landfilled in a dedicated “hazardous” landfill site.

Arrange for your contractor or consultant to draw up a Basic Characterisation of the waste (detailed report on its properties).

Make sure that the waste meets the Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) for hazardous landfill (these relate mainly to leaching of chemicals and organic content). If it fails the WAC, it cannot be landfilled. You will need to conduct regular tests and checks.

All waste (whether hazardous or not) must undergo some form of pre-treatment prior to landfill, unless this would not bring about any environmental benefit.

If the waste is being burned as fuel …

Waste oils and solvents can only be burned in a plant which meets the specifications of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive — not an ordinary boiler.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) must be segregated from other wastes, and hazardous WEEE must be segregated from other WEEE.

It must go to an authorised WEEE treatment facility which has a permit to take hazardous waste.

Fluorescent lamps are hazardous WEEE. Store them in a specialised lamp box or “coffin” and send them for recycling.

Waste hierarchy

When you sign the consignment note, you are declaring that you have taken the waste hierarchy into account. This is a legal duty under the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011.

“Taking the hierarchy into account” means that you have considered each stage of the waste hierarchy when deciding how your hazardous waste will be recovered, treated or disposed of, and have looked for opportunities to move waste up the hierarchy.

  1. Waste prevention (best option).

  2. Preparation for reuse.

  3. Recycling.

  4. Energy recovery.

  5. Disposal to landfill or hazardous waste incinerator (option of last resort).

Starting with waste prevention as the top priority, consider whether there are any steps you can take to manage waste more sustainably.

Although the opportunities to reuse, recycle and recover hazardous waste may be more limited than those for non-hazardous waste, there are still plenty of opportunities to move it up the hierarchy, for example:

  • cleaning and reusing contaminated containers, eg IBCs

  • reprocessing of waste solvents and oils into a fuel suitable for cement kilns

  • recycling of lamps and other WEEE

  • burning oily rags in an energy recovery plant

  • donating half-empty containers of DIY products (eg adhesives) to a community project

  • recycling of batteries

  • removal of ozone-depleting substances from old refrigeration equipment so that it can be recycled.

The ideal solution is to design out hazardous waste from your product or process. For example, chemical companies have successfully reformulated some of their products to remove hazardous constituents. Environmentally-friendly cleaning products can be used in place of bleach or solvents. This will not only make waste management easier (and cheaper), but will also make your workplace healthier, safer and more environmentally friendly.