Last reviewed 5 August 2015

Many will be aware of the changes to chemical classification that have come about through the EU’s CLP Regulation, but the changes made to the classification of hazardous waste have been less widely publicised. As Caroline Hand observes, as well as affecting health and safety legislation such as COSHH, these changes necessitate adjustments to the way that hazardous waste is classified and described. Furthermore, failure to describe waste correctly on documentation could result in prosecution under the various UK devolved Hazardous Waste Regulations and a possible £300 fixed penalty.

How is hazardous waste classified?

The basic principles for classification of hazardous waste are laid down in the EU Waste Framework Directive, as amended. The focus of the legislation is on chemical hazards and biohazards rather than the risk of physical injury. Waste such as broken glass or uncontaminated sharps, which might be regarded as a hazard in a health and safety risk assessment, is not “hazardous waste” for the purpose of the legislation, whereas a very small amount of toxic chemical residue in a container would qualify as “hazardous waste”.

Waste is hazardous if it possesses one or more of the 15 Hazardous Properties (HPs) listed in the Directive:

HP1

Explosive

HP2

Oxidising

HP3

Flammable

HP4

Irritant

HP5

Specific target organ toxicity and aspiration hazard

HP6

Acute toxicity

HP7

Carcinogenic

HP8

Corrosive

HP9

Infectious

HP10

Reprotoxic

HP11

Mutagenic

HP12

Releases toxic gases

HP13

Sensitising

HO14

Ecotoxic

HP15

After disposal produces a hazardous leachate, etc.

One of the first changes to note is that these categories were formerly listed as H1, H2, etc and now they are listed as HP1, HP2 etc.

Waste producers must assess whether their waste possesses one of these hazardous properties by determining whether it contains any hazardous substances. If hazardous substances are present in sufficient concentration, the waste stream will be classified as hazardous.

The impact of CLP

The EU Regulation on the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures 1272/2008 (CLP) came fully into force on 1 June 2015. It has brought in a new system for classifying and labelling all kinds of chemical products. The most visible change is the replacement of the familiar orange square warning labels on chemical containers with the white diamonds of the Globally Harmonised System (GHS). The UK’s CHIP Regulations (Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply)) have been effectively revoked and there are no equivalent new UK Regulations as the EU CLP Regulation has direct effect.

As well as the obvious changes to labelling, CLP has changed the classification system.

  • The familiar risk phrases have been replaced with Hazard Statements (HS) which are not all directly equivalent to the old risk phrases.

  • “Categories of Danger” — the general hazards such as flammable, toxic and corrosive — are now known as Hazard Classes (HC). Again, these are not all directly equivalent to the old categories of danger. For example, there is a new hazard class of Specific Target Organ Toxicity (STOT). The classes are generally divided into degrees of severity of hazard generally called categories (eg Acute Toxicity is divided into Catergories 1, 2, 3 and 4, with Category 1 the highest severity of hazard) .

The result is that some chemical products will have different classifications while others, such as washing up liquid, which were not classified under CHIP, are now classified as hazardous and labelled with a white diamond.

How does this affect waste?

Under the old system, waste would be regarded as hazardous if it contained “dangerous substances” in concentrations which exceeded a specified threshold. “Dangerous substances” were chemicals classified under the CHIP Regulations. With the advent of CLP, “dangerous substances” have been replaced by CLP’s “hazardous substances”. The easiest way to find out whether a specific chemical is hazardous is to use the ECHA search engine.

This database will give the Hazard Class/category and Hazard Statements for the chemical of concern. These will indicate which Hazardous Property the waste is likely to possess. The Hazardous Property may be different from that which applied under the old system, or a previously non-hazardous waste may now be found to display a Hazardous Property.

Wastes containing Persistent Organic Pollutants — including dioxins and furans — in fairly low concentrations are now classified as hazardous. This is of particular concern to those dealing with historic wastes and contaminated soils, but is probably less relevant to others as most of the POPs are substances that have been banned for many years (such as DDT and PCBs).

WM3: the definitive guidance on hazardous waste assessment

The Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales have jointly published a detailed guidance document, Technical Guidance WM3: Waste Classification - Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste, which describes how to classify hazardous waste, taking into account the CLP changes. This replaces the old guidance WM2. The new guidance came into effect either in June or July 2015, the specific date being given in each devolved power’s legislation.

Appendix C of WM3 contains a series of chapters, one for each of the Hazardous Properties. These include flowcharts to help assessors to decide whether a waste stream displays that particular hazard. WM3 lists the threshold concentrations for each hazardous property, which are summarised below.

Hazardous Property

Hazard Statement(s)

Threshold

HP 1, HP2, HP3

Testing required: see WM3 chapters C1, C2, C3

HP4 Irritant

H314

≥1%, ≤5%

HP4 Irritant

H318

10%

HP4 Irritant

H315 and H319

20%

HP5 STOT

H370

1%

HP5 STOT

H371

10%

HP5 STOT

H335

20%

HP5 STOT

H372

1%

HP5 STOT

H373

10%

HP5 Aspiration toxicity

H304

10%

HP6 Acute toxicity 1 (ingestion)

H300

0.1%

HP6 Acute toxicity 2 (ingestion)

H300

0.25%

HP6 Acute toxicity 3 (ingestion)

H301

5%

HP6 Acute toxicity 4 (ingestion)

H302

25%

HP6 Acute toxicity 1(dermal)

H310

0.25%

HP6 Acute toxicity 2 (dermal)

H310

2.5%

HP6 Acute toxicity 3 (dermal)

H311

15%

HP6 Acute toxicity 4 (dermal)

H312

55%

HP6 Acute toxicity 1 (inhalation)

H330

0.1%

HP6 Acute toxicity 2(inhalation)

H330

0.5%

HP6 Acute toxicity 3 (inhalation)

H331

3.5%

HP6 Acute toxicity 4 (inhalation)

H332

22.5%

HP7 Carcinogenic 1A, 1B

H350

0.1%

HP7 Carcinogenic 2

H351

1%

HP8 Corrosive

H314

5%

HP9 Infectious

No thresholds: see WM3 chC9

HP10 Reprotoxic 1A, 1B

H360

0.3%

HP10 Reprotoxic 2

H361

3%

HP 11 Mutagenic 1A, 1B

H340

0.1%

HP11 Mutagenic 2

H341

1%

HP12 Releases toxic gas

Specific thresholds depending on hazardous substance

HP13 Skin sensitiser 1, 1A, 1B

H317

10%

HP13 Respiratory sensitiser 1, 1A, 1B

H334

10%

HP14 Ecotoxic (Ozone depleting)

H420

0.1%

HP14 Ecotoxic

H400, H410, H411, H412

Use old Risk Phrase method or equations in WM3 chapter C14

HP15 Indirect hazard

H205, EUH001, EUH019, EUH044

Presume hazardous unless testing proves otherwise

PCDD and PCDF (dioxins and furans)

15µg/kg

All other listed POPs

50mg/kg

Key to hazard statements

H314

Causes severe skin burns and eye damage

H315

Causes skin irritation

H318

Causes serious eye damage

H319

Causes serious eye irritation

H370

Causes damage to organs

H371

May cause damage to organs

H335

May cause respiratory irritation

H372

Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure

H373

May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure

H304

May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways

H300

Fatal if swallowed

H301

Toxic if swallowed

H302

Harmful if swallowed

H310

Fatal in contact with skin

H311

Toxic in contact with skin

H312

Harmful in contact with skin

H317

May cause an allergic skin reaction

H330

Fatal if inhaled

H331

Toxic if inhaled

H332

Harmful if inhaled

H334

May cause allergy or asthma or breathing difficulties if inhaled

H350

May cause cancer

H351

Suspected of causing cancer

H360

May damage fertility or the unborn child

H361

Suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child

H340

May cause genetic defects

H341

Suspected of causing genetic defects

H400

Very toxic to aquatic life

H410

Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects

H411

Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects

H412

Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects

H413

May cause long lasting effects to aquatic life

H420

Harms public health and the environment by destroying the ozone in upper atmosphere

H205

May mass explode in fire

EUH001

Explosive when dry

EUH019

May form explosive peroxides

EUH044

Risk of explosion if heated under confinement

The assessor must check to see whether the concentration of each hazardous substance in the waste exceeds the threshold. So, for example, if a waste stream contains a substance which is classified as a skin sensitiser with Hazard Statement H317, the waste stream will be hazardous if the concentration of the sensitising substance exceeds 10%. Note that it is the concentration, not the quantity, that matters: very small quantities of hazardous substances still qualify as hazardous waste when discarded.

The List of Wastes

Appendix A to WM3 is a catalogue of waste types, known as the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) or List of Wastes (LoW). The original list was published as part of the List of Wastes Regulations 2005, but waste producers are advised to use the version in WM3 as this takes account of the CLP changes and also uses a helpful colour coding system. The EWC lists both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes, assigning a six digit code to each waste stream. Hazardous waste entries are denoted with an asterisk.

Before carrying out any kind of chemical analysis and assessment, waste producers should consult the LoW. There are four types of entry.

  • Absolute hazardous — coded red.

  • Absolute non-hazardous — coded black.

  • Mirror hazardous — coded blue.

  • Mirror non-hazardous — coded green

If a waste stream is “absolute hazardous” then no further analysis or calculation is required; the waste is definitely hazardous. This applies to hazardous articles such as cathode ray tubes. If it is “mirror hazardous” then the assessor must carry out the assessment procedure, comparing the concentration of hazardous constituents with the thresholds. For physical hazards such as flammability, testing will be required.

Filling in the consignment note

Producers of hazardous waste are legally responsible for filling in the hazardous waste consignment note. This document provides a means of tracking the waste to make sure that it arrives safely at an appropriate treatment or disposal facility. The details required include the six digit code from the List of Wastes and the Hazardous Property (HP) as defined by the new system. Contractors often take responsibility for these notes; if this is the case, the laboratory manager should check that their contractor is aware of the new requirements and has updated the notes accordingly. Incorrect details on the note can attract a fixed penalty of £300.

The new WM3 may not make for the lightest summer holiday reading, but those responsible for waste need to download their copy as soon as possible. The English Environment Agency warns that the changes are “significant enough to invalidate any existing assessment of hazardous properties made under the (former) criteria”.

There has been some uncertainty as to whether the new hazardous waste guidance has statutory effect. The Environment Agency’s website now confirms that “technical guidance WM2 applies in England until the 30 June 2015. On 1 July the technical guidance WM3 replaces it, and WM2 will be archived.”