Duty of Care - the law and commercial waste

As a commercial/trade/business premises, you are required by law to have a registered contractor to remove your waste with a completed transfer note (duty of care) or registered disposal outlet providing receipts for your waste.

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The law states that you must take reasonable steps to keep waste safe. If you give waste to someone else, you must be sure that they are authorised to take it and can transport, recycle or dispose of it safely. If you break this law, you can be fined an unlimited amount.

Steps to take

  1. Make it secure. Keep it in a suitable container. If you put loose waste in a skip or on a lorry it must be covered.
  2. Make sure your disposer is authorised. If you give waste to someone else, check they have authority to take it. The law says the person to whom you give your waste must be authorised to take it Duty of Care - Section A (below) explains who is allowed to take waste and how you can check.
  3. Describe the waste in writing. You must fill in and save a transfer note for it. You must keep a copy of the transfer note. To save on paperwork you can write your description of the waste on the transfer note see Duty of Care - Section B (below)

If you take waste from someone else the first thing you should do is be sure the law allows you to do so. Duty of Care - Section A explains who is allowed to take waste.

If you suspect that someone is breaking the law, do not give the waste to him or her or take waste from him or her. Tell the Environment Agency (England and Wales) or the Scottish Environment Agency (Scotland). The Environment Agency's enquiry line is 0845 933 3111.

Further Advice

The information give in this site is only an introduction to the duty of care. It cannot be relied on as legal advice. Practical guidance for everyone who is under the duty is in Waste Management, the duty of care, a code of practice  ISBN 0-11-753210-X which is available from stationery office bookshops.

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Duty of Care - Section A

Those authorised to take waste

Householder have some paperwork to complete. This is explained in section B. Council waste collectors do not have to do any paperwork.

Registered waste carriers most carriers of waste have to be registered with the environment agency or the Scottish environment protection agency. Look at the carrier's certificate or registration or check with the agencies.

Exempt waste carriers the main people who are exempt are charities and voluntary organisations. Most carriers register their exemption with the environment agency or Scottish environment agency. If someone tells you they are exempt, ask them why. You can also check with the agencies that their exemption is registered.

Businesses exempt from waste management licenses there are exemptions from licensing for certain activities and certain types of waste. For example, the land treatment of specified industrial wastes for agricultural benefit or ecological improvement. Exemptions only apply if they comply with the general rules of the exemption and do not harm the environment or human health. Most businesses need to register their exemption with the environment agency or the Scottish environment agency. You can check with the agencies that their exemption is registered.

Authorised transport purposes you can transfer waste to someone for “authorised transport purposes” This means

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

Registered waste brokers anyone who arranges the recycling or disposal of waste, on behalf of someone else, must be registered as a waste broker. You can check the environment agency or the Scottish environment agency that the broker is registered.

Exempt waste brokers most exempt waste brokers need to register with the environment agency or the Scottish environment agency. Those who are exempt are mainly charities or voluntary organisations. If someone tells you they are exempt, ask them why. You can check with the relevant agencies that their exemption is registered.

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Duty of Care - Section B

Filling in the paperwork

When waste is passed from one person to another the person taking the waste must have a written description of it. A transfer note must also be completed and signed by both parties involved in the transfer.

You can write the description of the waste on the transfer note. Who provides the transfer note is not important as long as it contains the right information. The government has provided a model transfer note with the code of practice which you can use if you want.

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

The transfer note needs to be completed and signed by both persons involved in the transfer must include:

  • What the waste is and how much there is.
  • What sort of container 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 the authorised transport, 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 that issued it.
  • The reason for any exemptions from the requirement to register or have a license.
  • Where appropriate the name and address of any broker involved in the transfer of waste.

The written description must provide as much information as someone else might need to handle the waste safely. It must contain the reference to the appropriate 6-digit code/sin the European waste catalogue (EWC). The EWC provides a more precise method of identifying the types of waste by listing waste types according to the process or industries from which they arise. The requirement to refer to the code is contained in the Landfill regulations 2002. For further guidance about EWC codes, please contact your local environment agency office.

Keeping the paperwork both persons involved in the transfer must keep copies of the transfer note and the description of the waste for two years. They may have to prove in court where the waste came from and what they did with it. A copy of the transfer note must be made available to the environment agency or the Scottish environment agency if they ask to see it.

If you have any queries on the service information on this web page please do not hesitate to contact us by email.

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