All businesses create waste in one form or another. Yet, waste must be responsibly managed, stored, transported and disposed of, according to best practice under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990). The lawful, safe and sustainable management of waste, especially where environmental impact is considered and measured, is called your ‘duty of care’.
For many, the legal classification for this is called ‘controlled waste’, which includes commercial, industrial and household waste. Yet, controlling your waste describes an important responsibility for businesses.
The mismanagement of waste or other waste crimes, such as fly-tipping, can harm human health and the natural environment. It can also incur hefty penalties from the UK government when those are found breaching this legislation.
Unpacking the legal responsibilities of key legislation and lawful guidance, how can businesses truly maximise their waste efficiency? This answer describes your duty of care.
With a clear objective – to reduce environmental and human harm from waste – Duty of Care in the UK is supported by multiple pieces of key legislation, including:
Waste can seem ambiguous, but it broadly describes materials, substances or by-products that have expired and need to be discarded, including materials for recycling.
When we all contribute to waste, who is responsible for managing it? Domestic waste is produced by households, whereas business waste – sometimes trade or commercial waste – comes from an organisation, regardless of it being private or public. The responsibility for proper waste management is shared.
Common examples of waste varies between workplaces, but typically includes everything from used plastics and paper, down to building materials, such as timber. When the waste poses a danger or risk to human health, it’s deemed as hazardous (sometimes called “special waste” in Scotland). This includes chemical waste, asbestos, batteries, and discarded electrical equipment – all of which have the capacity to harm human health.
Any discarded items and materials are considered “waste” and will remain that way until being properly disposed of, or recovered, often by an official waste management solution. There’s no time frame that requires punctual disposal of expired materials, businesses just as much as households should take accountability for managing their waste. It’s important for businesses to remember that once a material becomes classified as ‘waste’, it’s more closely regulated and watched.
Every time waste is produced, it must be properly disposed of. In the UK and beyond, key waste policies are increasingly concerned with a healthier and happier environment.
As a business, you will have certain responsibilities.
In the UK, the government describes these as:
The shared responsibility for proper waste management starts with a business, but it doesn’t end there. Once waste has been generated and officially disposed of, or transferred to an authority, a business is bound by this duty of care to ensure that waste is managed throughout the chain.
Once identified, waste must be segregated, transported and treated in a secure fashion, which means it doesn’t pollute or harm the environment, or the people within it. As your sense of duty, waste produced by any business should be managed by an authorised professional. It’s advisable to keep records of a waste transfer, including descriptions of the waste and archive this for a minimum of two years. That’s because noncompliance with waste can result in penalties, as waste crimes, like fly-tipping, can harm the natural environment.
Under the European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98 EC), commissioned by the European Parliament, there is a vision for a “recycling society”, which is altogether more sustainable with waste disposal and renewal. Together membership states support this goal by becoming more responsible with waste prevention.
Recycling polices are tightly regulated both inside, and beyond, the European Union (EU). When it comes to the EU’s recycling society, if waste cannot be reasonably prevented as the first step toward sustainability, then it must be reused, recycled and recovered.
This changing landscape in environmental policy regarding waste, and larger scale applications like the EU’s vision for recyclability, is certainly insightful. Perhaps the largest outcomes of this initiative, and many policies like it, is how waste has changed in global perception. No longer a problem, waste is now recycled because it’s a resource. Waste, when managed effectively, can be renewed.
The European Waste Catalogue has long been a key reference for documenting and describing types of waste materials, processes and how it applies to industry. In short, it summarises approximately 100 different types of waste. Supporting waste policy and legislation at scale, the EWC is important because it tries to set up a consistent approach to waste management. And it’s one many still refer to, even in the UK.
Proper waste management extends to both the handling, and storing, of waste materials and items, especially if they pollute the natural environment. Commonly, before waste is professionally removed, many businesses choose to store it somewhere securely. However, the waste must be your own, and if you’re storing anything else you will require a licence or permit.
You may not store anyone else’s waste without the following:
Yet, for certain waste materials and depending on how you’ll dispose of it, there may exemptions.
A waste exemption describes any waste solution that doesn’t require an environmental permit. Exemptions may be applied to different industries, for example, such as retail or agriculture, but each must still comply with limits and conditions. The treatment of waste will always follow guidance with policy, but there may be different expectations for how you manage yours. This is often why expert waste removal is consulted – so you know your legal responsibilities and can safely and securely store and dispose of it.
When it comes to understanding your legal responsibilities, waste treatment can quickly become more complicated than policy and exemptions. Depending on waste type, there are legal requirements with how materials and items are disposed of.
Some of the waste types include, but are not limited to:
Certain wastes, including liquids or untreated waste items, are no longer lawfully acceptable at a landfill site. Instead, landfill sites are guided by waste policy just as much as ordinary techniques for disposal. Whilst landfills consist of both household and commercial waste, these sites are generally regulated by strict pollution and waste prevention controls. They are designed to limit harmful pollutants and other contaminants from causing environmental harm, which means they can only accept certain waste materials.
You should seek advice and help from waste professionals, especially if transferring waste between sites. This is because responsible waste management is as much about preventing waste, as it is about controlling how it gets stored and transferred.
Whilst it’s your responsibility to manage any waste produced by your business, you must work with an authorised professional to help ensure it’s properly transferred and disposed of. For the clean-up of waste crimes, such as fly-tipping, to the bulk waste removals, it’s important to work with an expert that cares for, and is passionate about, the environment. That’s because sustainability happens when we all work together.
The professionals at the Grounds Care Group are transparent about waste removals, and we can expertly work with you to transfer and remove waste using an environmental solution. Get in touch to find out how we can help you today.