Almost all businesses produce some hazardous waste. It is vital to understand the statutory definition of hazardous waste originally established under the EU Waste Framework Directive. This differs in several respects from the definition of hazardous substances used in health and safety legislation. The quantity is irrelevant in deciding whether a waste is hazardous.

Hazardous waste is defined by reference to the List of Wastes (LOW), also known as the European Waste Catalogue (EWC). A waste stream will be hazardous if its entry in the LOW is marked with an asterisk. Many wastes have mirror entries, ie paired hazardous and non-hazardous entries, in the LOW and must be assessed to determine whether they contain dangerous substances and display hazardous properties. Most small businesses will rely on their waste management contractor to assess whether a waste stream is hazardous.

Detailed guidance on the assessment criteria is given in the Environment Agency’s guidance document WM3, updated in 2021. In 2019, new restrictions on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) were introduced. These changes mean that plastic from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) which contains flame retardants is now classified as hazardous waste and cannot be reused or recycled. The same applies to waste domestic seating (sofas, etc) containing POPs which must be disposed of by incineration.

This topic enables waste producers to assess whether or not their waste is hazardous.

Quick Facts

Key points you need to know on this topic.


Detailed information on all matters in this topic.