If you operate any form of business, you have a legal responsibility under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and other related legislation to safely contain and legally dispose of any waste produced from your business.
If you don’t, you can be taken to court as you are committing an offence. If you are found to be disposing of your waste illegally you could be prosecuted and handed an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison.
The law applies to anyone working from home, such as garden clearances, dog grooming, packing and delivering, childminding, hairdressing, catering or home offices. This waste is known as commercial waste, trade waste or business waste and includes:
- Food and drink consumed on a business premises
- Damaged or scrapped items
- Floor sweepings, particularly if you are a hairdresser or dog groomer
- Cleaning materials
- Items used in daily running of business i.e. stationery, cotton wool and disposable gloves
- Contents of litter bins including tissues, wrappers, plastic water cups and general waste that cannot be recycled
- Recyclable items including plastic drinks bottles, papers and magazines, coffee jars, milk cartons, envelopes and junk mail
It is an offence to take it home and place it in your domestic bin, to take to a Household Recycling Centre or to dispose of it any other way except in accordance with the Duty of Care.
Option 1: Dispose of your own waste
You must be able to provide documents called ‘Waste Transfer Notes’ or provide some form of receipts showing:
- Where you disposed of the waste (tip location)
- How much of it there was (weight)
- When it was tipped (date) and what waste was tipped (type).
You may be able to take it to a privately run waste site. You cannot take any form of business waste to the Household Recycling Centres. If you are found to be using these sites, you will be refused entry by the staff.
Option 2: Have someone else collect and dispose of it
- They must be a ‘licensed waste carrier’
- You must have filled in a form commonly known as a ‘Duty of Care’ with your chosen contractor. You can check with the Environment Agency that your contractor is licensed
- You are committing offences and can be prosecuted if you give your waste to anyone who is not licensed to carry and dispose of controlled waste.
Duty of Care
The Duty of Care applies to anyone who produces, stores, transports, treats and disposes of waste. You can recycle commercial waste, but it still needs to be legally documented with your chosen contractor.
What you need to do
Make sure any waste you produce is safely stored in a suitable container. If waste is put in a bin, it needs to be closed and covered so the waste cannot escape or be interfered with. If it is put in your contractor’s trade bags, keep them contained and do not put them out until the time of your collection.
Whoever collects your waste, make sure they have the authority to do so. They must be registered with the Environment Agency. If it’s a one-off collection, a waste transfer note must be completed. If you have a regular waste contract collection, this will normally be found on the contract you signed with your chosen waste collector. Also known as a ‘Duty of Care Note'.
If you dispose of your own waste, you must pay for the disposal and keep all your receipts and tipping notes for at least two years.
Waste produced as a result of human or animal health care is classed as clinical waste and you will need to make special arrangements for its disposal.
You have a legal responsibility and duty for your waste until it is collected by a legal waste carrier. You should ensure you have the sufficient number of collections by your contractor to remove all of your waste and avoid it spilling out or to avoid your bin being overfilled.
If your contractor fails to collect your waste within a reasonable period of time, you cannot leave it on the street. You must take it back inside your premises. If you have trade waste bins and your contractor has not emptied your bin, contact them at once to attend as a matter of urgency.
Most offences are caused by the businesses’ own staff or contractors failing in their duties. This could be as simple as your staff not knowing the basic rules and procedures. Make sure your staff are fully trained on waste disposal and waste management. If they deal with waste, they should know what to do with it and where it goes.