Legislation and General Waste
As you might expect there is a good deal of legislation relating to general waste disposal. Businesses in particular have to be up to date with current requirements if they don’t want to be fined or even prosecuted for getting it wrong. We all have a responsibility to make sure that the rubbish we produce is disposed of correctly, whether that’s through recycling or, as a final solution, sending to landfill.
Legislation varies depending on which part of the country you are in and individual councils will have their own measures in place depending on their resources. Most of the general waste legislation in the UK, however, is guided by the principal of the waste hierarchy. This states that we should be reusing or recycling as much as possible before we even consider waste disposal to places like landfill.
There is specific legislation relating to different waste, of course. For example, legal compliance and clinical waste has some fairly strict stipulations attached to it and failure to follow these can lead to fines and criminal prosecution.
Most of the legislation we have in the UK comes from the guidance provided by the EU Waste Framework Directive. This basically requires the UK and other member states to put in measures that greatly reduce the amount of waste we produce and that the things we have to dispose of are done so without harm to human health. Legislation for England and Wales was introduced in 2012 and both Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own laws and requirements in place which follow a similar vein.
Permits and Licences for Waste Handling in the UK
If you are involved in the recovery or disposal of waste of any kind, including general waste, then you are required to have a permit or licence. This was introduced to make sure that people deal with waste in a way that is not harmful or dangerous. Member states can have exemptions from this rules but most follow the general ideology of the EU directive. Hazardous waste is one area where you do, of course, certainly need a permit as by its very nature it is toxic to human beings and life in general.
Find out about legislation and hazardous waste here.
Other legislation is designed to improve the re-use of components rather than recycling and disposal. For example, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation is designed to reduce the amount of waste from our electrical devices such as computers, fridges, smartphones and televisions by making more of the components readily reusable or recyclable. There are rules also to help reduce the amount we send to landfill and how we produce more sustainable packaging for goods. Even small items like batteries have legislation attached to them that reduce their harm on the environment including restricting the use of dangerous substances such as cadmium and mercury.
When it comes to businesses and other organisations, the actual definition of what is waste is also important. While most domestic homes have their needs taken care of by local councils who pick up waste and provide points where home owners can recycle their discarded property, businesses of all types often use private waste management teams.
The Government provides a guide to the legal definition of waste here.
Businesses have to employ companies that are licensed for waste removal and should have a clearly audited pathway for their waste. This includes getting invoices or waste transfer notes that show you have disposed of your waste in the proper manner. This applies even to small businesses that operate from home and, obviously, there are inherent dangers in using services such as a man with a van who may not be licenced. Waste also has to be stored in proper containers and shouldn’t be left out on the street, particularly if it is considered hazardous. If you are concerned that your waste disposal service does not have the right permit, then you can check on the government public register.
Other Parts of the UK and Waste Management
Scotland has its own regulations in place which mirror those in England and Wales closely. These include the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 as well as organisations such as Zero Waste Plan which is helped by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Northern Ireland also has its own legislation in place based around the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.
You can search for waste disposal contractors in your area on our dedicated data base.