Compliance Corner: Waste Regulations

Welcome to Compliance Corner! Here, our aim is to provide you with invaluable insights into the common issues encountered by our auditors during management system assessments. We’ll furnish you with practical guidance to help your organization address these issues proactively and maintain compliance. Join us as we share tips, best practices, and expert advice to support your compliance journey, ensuring smooth and lawful operations for your business.

To kick things off, we’re delving into a vital topic for all businesses: waste regulations, the essential documentation, and strategies for compliance.

It’s crucial for businesses to ensure that their waste management practices align with legal requirements. The UK’s ‘Duty of Care’ legislation mandates safe waste handling to safeguard human health and the environment. This legislation spans England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, each with specific codes of practice tailored to regional nuances.

So, who does this legislation impact? It affects any entity generating waste, spanning private sector businesses (such as shops, offices, factories, and tradespeople), public sector services (including schools, hospitals, and prisons), as well as charitable and community organizations.

Furthermore, the Waste Regulations 2011 (2013 in Northern Ireland) outline specific requirements for waste documentation, detailing the information that must be recorded to ensure compliance.

How to Stay Compliant: Simple Steps

1 Identify Your Waste Streams
First things first, you need to get a clear picture of all the types of waste your business generates. This involves looking at every aspect of your operations to see where waste is being produced. Common categories include:

    • Office Waste: Paper, cardboard, ink cartridges, old electronics.
    • Manufacturing Waste: Scrap metal, plastic, rubber, offcuts, defective products.
    • Service Industry Waste: Food scraps, packaging materials, cleaning products.
    • Construction Waste: Concrete, bricks, wood, tiles, and insulation materials.
    • Medical Waste: Used medical instruments, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
    • Retail Waste: Packaging, unsold goods, promotional materials.

Conduct a waste audit to get a comprehensive list. This means collecting data on the types and amounts of waste produced over a set period. Involve employees in this process, as they can provide insights into everyday waste generation.

2. Categorise Your Waste
Once you’ve identified your waste streams, the next step is categorising them. In the UK, waste is broadly classified into two categories:

    • Controlled Waste: This includes general waste, commercial waste, industrial waste, and household waste. It’s everything that is not considered hazardous. Examples include office paper, food waste, and plastic packaging.
    • Hazardous Waste: This type of waste contains harmful substances and requires special handling. It can pose significant risks to health and the environment. Examples include batteries, solvents, pesticides, and medical waste.

Categorising waste is crucial because it determines how it is handled and disposed of. Each type of waste has different regulatory requirements.

3. Understand Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste is any waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment. These wastes can be flammable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic. Here’s what you need to know:

    • Hazardous Waste: chemicals, asbestos, pesticides, medical waste, fluorescent tubes, and lead-acid batteries.
    • Segregation: Hazardous waste must be kept separate from other waste to avoid contamination and ensure their safe disposal.
    • Handling: Employees handling hazardous waste need proper training and protective equipment.
    • Disposal: Hazardous waste must be disposed of at licensed facilities that are equipped to handle it. Improper disposal can lead to severe legal and financial consequences.

Understanding the nature of hazardous waste ensures that you manage it correctly and comply with legal requirements.

4. Appoint a Licensed Waste Contractor
Proper disposal of your waste often involves hiring a waste contractor. Here’s what you need to check:

    • License Verification: Ensure the contractor has a valid waste carrier’s license issued by the Environment Agency or the relevant authority in your area. This license proves they are authorised to transport waste.
    • Facility Licensing: The site where your waste is taken must also be licensed to handle that type of waste. This ensures that your waste is being disposed of or treated legally and safely.
    • Audit Trail: Keep records of the contractor’s licenses and check their validity periodically. This protects your business from liability in case the contractor illegally disposes of them.

Hiring a licensed contractor ensures that your waste is handled professionally and complies with the law.

5. Maintain Proper Documentation
Documentation is a critical part of waste management compliance. For every movement of waste, you need to maintain detailed records. Here’s what you should do:

    • Waste Transfer Note (WTN): This document is used for Controlled Waste. It includes details such as the type, quantity, and destination. It must be completed for each load of waste transferred to another party.
    • Consignment Note: This note is used for Hazardous Waste. Due to its nature, it provides more detailed information. This note tracks the waste from the producer to the final disposal site.
    • Season Ticket: If you have regular waste collections, you can use a Season Ticket. This covers multiple collections (up to 12 months) and simplifies documentation. It should be accompanied by weighbridge tickets or other records showing the amounts of waste collected.

Information Required on Waste Documentation

For each document, you must record:

  • Date of Waste Transfer
  • Description of the Waste: Clear details of what the waste is.
  • SIC Code: Standard Industry Classification Code to identify your business activity.
  • EWC Code: The European Waste Catalogue Code is used to classify waste.
  • Waste Hierarchy Statement: Confirm that you have considered options to reduce, reuse, and recycle before disposal.
  • Signatures and Details: From the waste producer, the carrier, and the disposal site, including their licenses and addresses.

Retention Period

  • Controlled Waste Transfer Notes: Must be kept for at least 2 years.
  • Hazardous Waste Consignment Notes: Must be kept for at least 3 years.

Regular Checks

Regularly reviewing your waste documentation is essential to ensure its accuracy and compliance. This practice not only keeps you aligned with regulations but also highlights areas for enhancement in your waste management process. It’s important to note that maintaining proper documentation remains the responsibility of the waste producer, even if you engage a waste contractor for assistance.

By adhering to these meticulous steps, you can proficiently manage your waste, maintain regulatory compliance, and play a pivotal role in fostering a safer and cleaner environment.

Ready to enhance your waste management practices and ensure compliance? Obtaining ISO 14001 Certification can help you maintain high standards and streamline your processes. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you in achieving ISO 14001 Certification and take your commitment to environmental management to the next level.