Waste – Disposal

Key Legislation:

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

Supporting Legislation:
Consent Needed (also see the Performance Standards tab):

Waste Management Licence is required for any waste disposal activities (unless activities fall under the PPC Regulations).

Some waste disposal processes as determined by Schedule 1 of the PPC Regulations 2000 (e.g. landfill and incineration of hazardous waste) will now require an IPPC Permit (which will replace any existing Waste Management Licence). Discussions will be needed with EA/SEPA as to which permit route is applicable (see IPPC Permits). Where waste disposal facilities are within for example an onshore terminal, any waste disposal operations are likely to be covered under new IPPC permits, as IPPC applies to the installation rather than the process.

How to Apply:

An application for a Waste Management Licence may only be made if planning permission has been granted, or the land in question has an “established use” certificate. Planning applications may require an EIA depending on their size and nature. Planning applications will include consideration of nuisance (e.g. atmospheric emissions) and impacts to groundwater resources.

For waste disposal activities falling under the PPC Regulations, see IPPC Permits.

Applications for Waste Management Licences must be made on a form provided by the appropriate Agency. Contact EA or SEPA for advice. They will meet you to discuss the proposals and explain the application process.

As part of the licence application you will need to prepare a working plan. This document describes how to prepare, develop, operate and restore (where relevant) the site or plant. If you write a comprehensive working plan it will help to avoid delays in processing your application. It may also mean that some of your licence conditions could be less restrictive, giving you more opportunity for flexibility in your operations.

The licence application should demonstrate that the applicant is a “fit and proper” person. Demonstration of this includes having adequate financial provision to cover the licence obligations, whether a technically competent person will be managing the licensed activities and whether there are any convictions for relevant offences.

Exempted Activities:

Waste Management Licences are not normally needed for the following activities, but establishments or undertakings carrying out an exempted activity must be registered with SEPA/EA:

  • Recovery or reuse of waste (e.g. burning waste as fuel, recycling of packaging or containers, waste to land, etc.).
  • Operations leading to recovery/reuse or disposal (e.g. crushing or grinding bricks or concrete, dredging of waterways, recovery or disposal as part of the production process, etc.).
  • Disposal of own waste at the place of production (e.g. disposal by incineration at the place of production, burning waste in the open, waste from prospecting).
  • Other deposits of waste (e.g. temporary storage of ships’ garbage or tank washings, storage of waste not at the place of production, storage of waste at the place of production).

It should be noted that an activity falling into one of the exempted categories will not necessarily be exempt and the Schedule to the Waste Management Licence Regulations 1994 should be checked. In most cases the exemptions do not apply where the types and quantities of waste may have environmental and health implications. Exemptions do not apply to Special/Hazardous Waste.

Apply in writing using application form provided by the appropriate Agency (SEPA/EA).

Who to Apply To: SEPA/EA as appropriate.
When to Apply: SEPA/EA has four months in which to consider the application once all the information has been received. If at the end of that time the regulatory authority has neither advised the applicant of acceptance or intention of rejection, then the application is deemed to have been refused. SEPA/EA will consult with HSE and Natural England/SNH/CCW if appropriate. Consultees have 28 days to submit comments.
Consultation on Waste Management Licensing Regulations: A consultation process for the Waste Management Licensing Regulations and associated amendments including legislation relating to waste carriers has recently been completed. See consultation.
Waste Definitions:

Most waste from commerce and industry are Controlled Wastes, including materials that are to be recycled (see Waste Classification). Controlled waste includes waste arising from domestic, industrial and commercial premises as well as Special Waste (or Hazardous Waste) for which there are additional regulations.

Scrap metal is a controlled waste for the purpose of Duty of Care under 1995 amendments made to the Controlled Waste Regulations 1992. Additional guidance on scrap metal is available under Waste Management Paper No 4a.

Defra recently completed a consultation process to further develop and determine the definition of waste. The intention is to help businesses and other organisations take the right decisions about the classification of substances as waste, particularly in the more difficult cases. View consultation (PDF document).

Waste Minimisation, Recovery and Reuse:

The National Waste Strategies for England, Wales and Scotland set out the key principles to meet future objectives and statutory objectives for waste management with drives towards reduction of waste production at source as well as recycling and reuse of waste (see Waste Minimisation).

Waste Disposal:

UK objectives are to reduce the amount of waste at source or recycle/reuse as far as possible. Waste disposal is seen as the final option. The three main options for waste disposal are:

  • Incineration, with or without Energy Recovery. All incineration and energy from waste options are waste reduction rather than disposal processes and require disposal of residues either to landfill (incinerator fly ash is a Special/Hazardous Waste) or for other purposes such as road construction. Incineration without energy recovery is not generally considered to be a viable option.
  • Landfill and Landraising. Although landfill will continue to be needed, the EU Landfill Directive has targets to minimise landfill. From July 2002, all landfill sites require to be classified by EA/SEPA as hazardous, non-hazardous or inert. Mixed disposal at landfill sites is no longer permitted. The landfill tax has also imposed increased costs on the use of landfill. Explosive, corrosive, oxidising, flammable and infectious wastes are now banned from all landfill sites as are wholes tyres and from July 2006 all tyres.
  • Pre-treatment. The Landfill Regulations introduce the concept of pre-treatment of waste. This requires that any landfill that has been granted its licence since July 2001 must only take waste that is pre-treated. From July 2004, all hazardous landfill sites must only take waste that is pre-treated. Consultation is ongoing on the definition and application of pre-treatment, but it is expected that by October 2007 at the latest, no waste will be able to be collected and taken to landfill without some weight reduction being applied through source segregation or sorting at transfer stations. ‘Pre-treatment’ is clarified in the current Waste Strategy for England 2007 (PDF document).
Landfill Tax:

Under the Landfill Tax Regulations a landfill tax was introduced. Two levels of tax are set:

  1. Inert or inactive waste
  2. All other waste

Although the amount dumped in landfill has been slowly decreasing, Britain is facing fines from the European Union if it does not make further reductions. The tax to dump rubbish in landfill sites is rising sharply.  The cost went up on 1 April 2010 to £48 a tonne; it will continue to rise by £8 a year until 2013. View information on Landfill Tax.

Landfill and Incineration Monitoring Requirements: The PPC Permit or Waste Management Licence will stipulate any requirements for air/water monitoring required.
Records to be Kept:

Records should be kept that detail the quantity, nature, origin, and where relevant, destination, frequency of collection, mode of transport and treatment method of any waste disposed of or recovered.

A Transfer Note should be completed whenever waste is handed over to an authorised person and should be signed by all parties. The transfer note details from whom and to whom the waste has been transferred, the category of authorised person to whom the waste has been consigned, relevant licence numbers, time, place and date of transfer as well as information on the quantity of waste, how it is packed and a description of the waste.

The transfer note, 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 containers it is in.
  • The time and date of transfer.
  • 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 authorised transport purposes, you must say which of those purposes applies.
  • If either (or both) person is a registered waste carrier, the certificate number and the name of the EA or SEPA office which issued it.
  • If either (or both) persons has a waste management licence, the licence number and the name of the EA or SEPA office which issued it.
  • The reasons for any exemption from the requirement to register or have a licence.
  • Where appropriate the name and address of any broker involved in the transfer.

The written description must provide as much information as someone else might need to handle the waste safely.

The List of Waste Regulations 2005 (England) transpose the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) into domestic legislation. The term ‘European Waste Code’ has been replaced by ‘List of Waste’ (LOW). The description must therefore refer to the LOW which provides descriptions of waste types from processes and industrial sectors.

In the case of repeated transfers and where such transfers involve consignment of the same type of waste to the same authorised person, a transfer note need not be completed on every transfer. In such circumstances, a transfer note should be completed at least annually and systems should be in place to ensure that no authorised or accidental deviation from the original consignment details take place.

Environment Agency: Civil Sanctions:



On 4 January 2011, the Environment Agency will begin using new civil sanctions to take action that is proportionate to the offence and the offender, and reflect the fact that most offences committed by businesses are unintentional.

SEPA/EA will make inspections of facilities which collect/transport or recover/dispose of waste, or which arranges for the recovery/disposal of waste on behalf of others.

SEPA/EA may serve notice on a waste holder requesting copies of relevant documents (transfer notes) within seven days.

Inspections of exempted activities are undertaken annually.

Reporting of Non-compliance:If the operator believes that his waste is not being dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the law, he must firstly prevent further transfer of waste to the suspected party and secondly, notify SEPA/EA.Non-compliance:

Dumping of any waste (including Special/Hazardous waste) or treating it without a licence may result in a maximum fine of £20,000 and/or six months in prison or summary conviction of an unlimited fine and/or two years in prison (five years if special waste is involved) on conviction on indictment.

Failure to supply copies of transfer notes may result in a fine of up to £5,000 on summary conviction or an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment.

Where the regulatory authority has reason to believe that the licence holder has ceased to be a “fit and proper” person or licence conditions are being breached, or that activities may cause harm to the environment or human health, it may serve notice that it intends to suspend or partially revoke the licence. In suspending or partially suspending the licence, the licence holder may be required to take the necessary steps to deal with or avert the pollution. If emergency remedial action is required, the regulatory authority may carry out the necessary work and then recover the expenditure from the licence holder.

It is an offence for an undertaker of an exempted activity not to be registered.

Renewal of Permit:

Waste Management Licence

Licence conditions will normally be reviewed annually to ensure they remain the appropriate activities carried out at the site.


Registrations are valid indefinitely.

Permitting Regime:

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 replace the licensing system in Part II of the Environmental Protection Act

The introduction of a more streamlined Environmental Permitting Programme (EPP) is part of an initiative designed to reduce costs for businesses and regulators. See DEFRA guidance for more information.

Variation of Waste Management Licence:

Section 37 of EPA 90 places a duty on the regulatory authority to take the necessary steps to ensure that Waste Management Licence conditions are being met and that licensed activities are not causing any pollution or harm to human health. If necessary the regulatory authority may by notice modify the licence conditions.

The licence holder may also apply for licence conditions to be varied. Contact the EA or SEPA to discuss proposals in the first instance.

Site closure: Unless otherwise revoked or surrendered, the Waste Management Licence and any accompanying conditions apply to closed disposal sites, with operators retaining a duty of care for them.
Revision of the Provisional Categorization of Liquid Substances in Accordance with MARPOL ANNEX II and the IBC Code The IMO have released a circular in accordance with regulation 6.3 of MARPOL Annex II, replacing all previously issued circulars under this title, which covers a range of pollutants including cargo tank cleaning additives.
Waste (Meaning of Recovery) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Order SSI 2015/438 Applying to Scotland only, this Order came into force on 1 July 2016 and amends the following:

  1. Special Waste Regulations SI 1996/972;
  2. End-of-Life Vehicles (Storage and Treatment) (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2003/593;
  3. National Waste Management Plan for Scotland Regulations SSI 2007/251;
  4. Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) (Scottish Offshore Region) Order SSI 2011/57;
  5. Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) (Scottish Inshore Region) Order SSI 2011/204;
  6. Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2011/228;
  7. Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2012/360.