PCBs – Storage and Disposal

Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Supporting Legislation:

Because of the regional differences between the PCB Regulations, SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and EA (Environment Agency – England and Wales) provide individual guidance for compliance with the regulations.

Environment Agency Guidance: (PDF documents)

Further guidance including technical guidance can be found in Waste Management Paper No. 6: Polychlorinated biphenyls, Department of the Environment, HMSO , available at www.tsoshop.co.uk 

General information about the global banning of persistent organic pollutants is available at the The Stockholm Convention website. where much of the formative work to ban PCBs has been carried out.

Guidance on ‘persistent organic pollutants’ (including PCBs) is available from the Environment Agency. See EU POPs Regulation Guide on the European Commission website.


All holders of PCBs or PCB contaminated equipment will be affected by the Regulations. Contaminated equipment is defined as any equipment (including any transformer, capacitor or receptacle contained residual stocks) which:

  • Contains PCBs, or
  • Has contained PCBs and has not been decontaminated.

Other than ones which contain a total volume of PCBs not exceeding 5 litres (equivalent to 5 m3) and the percentage concentration of PCB is more than 50 ppm.

The Regulations state that anything of a type which may contain PCBs shall be treated as containing PCBs unless it is reasonable to assume the contrary.

Types of equipment which may contain PCBs include:

  • Transformers and pole mounted transformers
  • Power factor capacitors
  • Heat transfer equipment
  • Resistors
  • Process heating equipment
  • Vacuum pumps
  • Hydraulic equipment

PCB contaminated equipment must:

  • Register all contaminated equipment with SEPA or the Environment Agency.
  • Provide information to SEPA or the Environment Agency for inclusion in an inventory.
  • Dispose of and/or decontaminate (for transformers only) all PCB contaminated equipment.
When you need to register:

The PCB Regulations came into force in 2000 and all holders of PCB contaminated equipment had until 31 July 2000 to complete the registration process.


Exemptions from the requirement to have disposed of PCBs by the deadline of 31 December 2000 exist in the following circumstances:

  • Where PCBs (or equipment) are held solely for the purposes of, or in the course of, any business, manufacturing process or trade concerned with the decontamination or disposal of PCB’s or equipment.
  • Where PCB’s are manufactured, supplied or used solely for the purposes of analysis or research.
  • Transformers for which it is reasonable to assume that the PCB fluid content is 0.05% (equivalent to 500 ppm) by weight or less. In this case transformers can be used to the end of their useful life.
  • Transformers with a fluid content of PCB that have been decontaminated so that they contain less than 0.05% PCB’s by weight. In this case transformers can be used until the end of their useful life. This decontamination must have taken place prior to 31 December 2000.
  • Equipment containing PCBs which is equipment to which none of the other exemptions apply, and which is also not contaminated equipment, and which forms part of other equipment which is also not contaminated equipment. Equipment of this description can be held until the other equipment is taken out of use, recycled or disposed of.

Exemption may also apply where a derogation has been granted by the Secretary of State (via SEPA/Environment Agency) which allows some types of contaminated equipment to remain operational until they reach the end of their useful life (or 1 January 2008 if that is sooner). The deadline for applying for a derogation has now passed.

Cancelling your registration:

SEPA and the Environment Agency have the right to cancel the registration of PCBs where:

  • False information has been supplied about the registration, or
  • Where the holder fails to provide information about renewal of a registration.

PCB contaminated equipment must be clearly labelled in order to identify the presence of PCBs within the equipment.

The two types of labels to be used must show that the equipment is:

  • Contaminated, or
  • A transformer that has been decontaminated to reduce the content of PCBs in the fluid to a maximum of 0.05% by weight.

In addition where access to a piece of contaminated equipment is by means of a door or gate, a sign must be fixed to the door of gate to show that the premises contain PCB contaminated equipment.

Decontamination and Disposal:

All PCBs and equipment containing PCBs should have been disposed of by 31 December 2000 except where an exemption applies. Where an exemption applies the deadline for disposal was 1 January 2008.

The Regulations limit the methods of disposal to the following:

  • Biological treatment
  • Physico-chemical
  • Incineration on land
  • Permanent storage (but only safe, deep, underground storage in dry rock formations and only for equipment containing PCBs which cannot be decontaminated)
  • Temporary storage at the disposal site (while awaiting one of the above methods to be applied)
Inspections: SEPA/EA may make a site visit to:

  • Check the information on the registration renewal form was correct.
  • Monitor the disposal and decontamination of PCB contaminated equipment.

Site visits are generally only carried out where it is suspected that the information provided to the Agency is false.

What and Who to Report to:

Once registration is in place, holders of PCB contaminated equipment must keep the relevant agency (SEPA/Environment Agency) informed in writing of any changes in the holding.

Offences: Contravention of the PCB Regulations is a criminal offence and the perpetrator shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £20,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, on a summary conviction.
Renewal of Registration: Registration of PCBs must be renewed in writing annually before 31 July of each year. Another application form must be filled out each year if the holder has not informed the agency (SEPA/EA) that the holder has disposed of their registered holdings. It is the holder’s responsibility to ensure that they comply with the requirements of the PCB regulations and the agency cannot be held responsible if you do not receive or complete your registration form.
 None at Present.