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Duty of care for waste

You must by law take responsibility for ensuring any waste you produce is managed and disposed of correctly. Duty-of-care requirements for households and businesses are laid out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

You must ensure that your waste is managed in a manner that does not cause harm to human health or pollution of the environment. This applies to any person who produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste, or as a broker has control of such waste.

Household waste

At home, you are required to take reasonable measures to ensure that waste produced on your property is passed on to an authorised person. It does not matter what type of property you live in, or whether or not you own it.

If a tradesperson carries out work on your property, generally they are responsible for the waste they produce and must comply with their own waste duty of care obligations.

If you do not take all reasonable measures available to you in the circumstances to meet your duty of care, you could be given a fixed penalty notice or face prosecution.

If you have waste that cannot be appropriately disposed of through your normal council waste collection service you can:

  • Check whether your local household recycling centre accepts the waste and take it yourself.
  • Use our bulky waste collection service.
  • Use a private business that provides a waste collection service.
  • Take your waste to a site run by a private business with the appropriate authorisations.

If you intend to use anyone other than us or the household recycling centres to remove and dispose of your waste, you must check whether they are authorised with an up-to-date registration to do so. The Environment Agency public registers list all licensed companies, or you can phone them on 03708 506506..

To demonstrate that you’ve met your duty of care, you could do any of the following:

  • Record any checks you make, including the operator’s registration, permit or exemption number.
  • Keep a receipt for the transaction which includes the business details of a registered operator.
  • Ask for and make a copy of the carrier’s waste licence.
  • Record details of the business and of any vehicle used (including registration, make, model, and colour), which can be linked back to an authorised operator.

These steps can help ensure your waste will be handled appropriately and not cause harm to others or the environment. They can also help enforcement officers catch those responsible if your waste is flytipped.

You should also be cautious of offers to dispose of your waste at a price significantly lower than other offers, where cash is the only accepted form of payment, or where a service can only be found informally through social media.

Business waste

All businesses produce waste and each one has a legal responsibility to ensure that any waste produced, stored, transported or disposed of is done so without harming the environment. Businesses are responsible for the waste from when it is produced until it has been transferred to an authorised waste carrier.

Businesses must ensure that:

  • waste is stored securely so it does not escape (either by falling out or blowing away), or is not removed from the waste receptacle without authorisation
  • waste is transported by the council or an authorised private contractor - read more about trade waste
  • a written description of the waste is completed for every transfer of waste or for a specified period. It is kept on record for at least two years
  • a waste transfer note or waste information e.g. invoice or contract, has to be produced upon request, either by a local authority or the Environment Agency

Transferring waste to an unregistered company or person, or failing to provide a waste transfer note is an offence. Being unable to provide a waste transfer notice or waste information is an offence and could lead to a fixed penalty notice. Businesses found guilty on conviction are also subject to a fine up to £5,000.

Waste carriers

Waste carriers must be registered with the Environment Agency. Carrying waste without authorisation is an offence: the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 empowers authorities to issue fixed penalty notices for failure to produce carriers registration documentation. Those found guilty on conviction are subject to a fine of up to £5,000.

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