Almost all businesses produce some hazardous waste. It is vital to understand the statutory definition of hazardous waste which has been 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 European Waste Catalogue (EWC). A waste stream will be hazardous if its entry in the EWC is marked with an asterisk. Many wastes have mirror entries, ie paired hazardous and non-hazardous entries, in the EWC 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.

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.

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

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