Your Duty Of Care

All businesses are required by law to store, transport and safely dispose of the waste they generate. We'll help explain what this means and keep you on the right side of the law.

This duty of care is enforced under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Section 34). It says all reasonable steps must be taken to keep waste safe. Anyone breaking the law could face an unlimited fine.

It applies to businesses who produce, import, store, transport, treat or dispose of waste. It also applies to brokers who arrange waste disposal services.

What Waste Is

Anything businesses dispose of is classed as waste. It can be from a house, school, university, hospital, residential or nursing home, shop, office, factory or any other trade or business.

It may be solid or liquid, and does not have to be hazardous or toxic to be a controlled waste. 

If the waste comes from your own home, the duty of care does apply in certain circumstances.  However, if a household is your place of work, the duty of care applies entirely.

This means all reasonable steps should be taken, depending upon what is done with the waste. The Government has issued a Waste and Recycling Code of Practice to help.

You must stop waste escaping from your control. It must be stored safely and securely to prevent it causing pollution or harming anyone.

Keep it in a suitable container. Skips and lorries should be covered over.

There are some business exemptions that include the treatment of land for specified industrial wastes for agricultural or ecological improvement. These apply if they meet with the general rules of the exemption and do not harm the environment or human health.

Most exempt businesses need to register their exemption with the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Approved Carriers

Councils like us are all approved.  Otherwise, most carriers of waste are recorded with the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

An online register shows a certificate of registration. Some licences are only valid for certain kinds of waste or activities. The certificate will confirm what is covered.

Authorised Transport

You can transfer waste to someone for “authorised transport purposes”, meaning:

  • the transfer of controlled waste between different places within the same premises
  • the transport of controlled waste into Great Britain from outside Great Britain
  • the transport by air or sea of controlled waste from a place in Great Britain to a place outside Great Britain

If you think someone might not be authorised, they may be breaking the law. In this case, do not allow them to take your waste to be taken them.

Further advice is available from the Waste and Recycling Code of Practice.

Waste Brokers

Anyone who arranges the recycling or disposal of waste, on behalf of someone else, must be registered as a waste broker.

Exemptions do apply, mainly for charities and voluntary organisations.  The Environment Agencies list full details of all brokers and exemptions.

Required Paperwork

When waste is passed from one person to another the person taking the waste must have a written description of it. A Waste Transfer Note must also be filled in and signed by both persons involved in the transfer.

Who provides the Waste Transfer Note is not important as long as it contains the right information.

Repeated transfers of the same kind of waste between the same parties can be covered by one Waste Transfer Note for up to a year. For example, weekly collections from shops.

The Waste Transfer Note must include:

  • What the waste is and how much there is, including the European Waste Catalogue number
  • The waste producer's standard industrial classification code (SIC) identifying the company's principal business activities
  • What sort of containers it is in
  • The time and date the waste was transferred
  • Where the transfer took place
  • The names and addresses of both persons involved in the transfer
  • Whether the person transferring the waste is the importer or the producer of the waste
  • Details of which category of authorised person each one is. If the waste is passed to someone for authorised transport purposes, you must say which of those purposes applies
  • If either or both persons is a registered waste carrier, the certificate number and the name of the Environment Agency which issued it
  • If either or both persons has a waste management licence, the licence number and the name of the Environment Agency which issued it
  • The reasons for any exemption from the requirement to register or have a licence
  • Where appropriate, the name and address of any broker involved in the transfer of waste
  • By signing your name on the Waste Transfer Form you confirm that you have fulfilled your duty to apply the waste hierarchy as required by Regulation 12 of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011

Both people involved in the transfer must keep copies for two years. This evidence may be used in court if needed or made available to either the Environment Agency, Waste Collection Authorities or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency if they ask to see it.