Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Waste management licences

You may need a waste management licence if you:

  • operate a landfill
  • store other people's waste
  • treat waste, carry out recycling or use mobile plant
  • carry out final disposal of waste.

You may need a waste management licence if you carry out these activities on your land or use a vehicle or mobile plant such as a mobile incinerator.

Additional resources

       

Do you need a waste management licence?

You may need a waste management licence if you:

  • operate a landfill
  • store other people's waste
  • treat waste, carry out recycling or use mobile plant
  • carry out final disposal of waste.

You may need a waste management licence if you carry out these activities on your land or use a vehicle or mobile plant such as a mobile incinerator.

You are unlikely to need a waste management licence if you only store waste that you produce and an authorised waste carrier removes it from your site regularly. You must check that anyone who handles your waste has the correct permit, licence or exemption.

Duty of care

What you must do if you hold a waste management licence

If you hold a waste management licence you must:

  • comply with all the conditions of your licence
  • comply with any formal notices issued by your environmental regulator
  • pay the annual subsistence charge
  • renew your licence when it expires if you wish to continue the waste activity.

Submit waste returns

If your waste management licence requires you to submit a waste return you will need to complete the relevant form on your environmental regulator's website.

Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA): Waste forms
SEPA: Licence permitted site data returns

Waste management licensing exemptions

Your activity may qualify for an exemption from waste management licensing. Whether you need a licence or need to register an exemption will depend on:

  • how long you store waste
  • the types and quantities of wastes that you handle, and
  • the activities carried out on your site.

If your activity is exempt, you may still need to register it with your environmental regulator. You will still need to comply with controls to prevent pollution and harm to human health.

You must check if you need to register an exemption.

Waste management licensing exemptions

Animal by-products and catering waste

If you collect, transport, store, handle, process or dispose of animal by-products or catering waste that is not intended for human consumption, you must also comply with the animal by-products regulations.

What activities are exempt from waste management licensing?

Some waste management activities are exempt from waste management licensing. For example, treating and storing some types of waste.

If you carry out these activities you do not need a waste management licence. However, in most cases, you must register your exempt activity with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or SEPA.

You must check with your environmental regulator if you need to register an exemption.

If you carry out activities controlled under other regulations you may also be exempt from waste management licensing.

If you don't need a waste management licence, you should check if you need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit for your waste activities.

If you are unsure if you need a waste management licence or an exemption, contact the NIEA or SEPA.

NIEA: Contact details

SEPA: Contacting SEPA

Types of waste management licensing exemptions

There are two types of waste management licensing exemptions: simple exemptions and complex exemptions.

Most waste management licensing exemptions have limits on the type and quantity of the waste you can treat or store and how long you can store it.

Exemptions are named according to the paragraph number of the regulation that creates them. For example, the exemption that allows you to compost your own biodegradable waste is called a paragraph 12 exemption.

Simple exemptions

Most activities exempt from waste management licensing are covered by simple exemptions. They include:

  • cleaning or coating waste packaging, containers and textiles
  • burning waste as a fuel in an exempt appliance
  • burning waste oil as a fuel in an engine
  • storing specified waste securely, eg waste hydraulic oils
  • treating specific waste to recover materials
  • burning waste in an exempt incinerator where it was produced
  • storing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) for recovery at a place other than where it was produced.

To carry out an activity covered by a simple exemption you usually need to register with the NIEA or SEPA.

In Northern Ireland you can register a simple waste exemtion online.

NIEA: Apply online

In Scotland you can register simple exemptions online.

SEPA: Online registration

You can also register by downloading the notification form and sending it to SEPA.

Simple exemption notiofication form (Word)

Simple exemption notification form (pdf)

Complex exemptions

Activities covered by complex exemptions include:

  • reclaiming and improving land
  • storing and spreading sludge
  • treating some waste at a water treatment works
  • composting
  • using waste in construction
  • disposing of pesticides
  • burning waste wood at docks
  • storing WEEE for recovery
  • repairing and refurbishing WEEE.

To carry out an activity covered by a complex exemption you must register with the NIEA or SEPA and pay a registration fee 21 days before you start the activity.

In Northern Ireland the NIEA will tell you whether your exemption will last for one or three years.

In Scotland you must renew the exemption annually.

To register or renew a complex waste management licensing exemption download the correct form and send it to your environmental regulator.

Registering exempt activities

You must register most exempt activities with your environmental regulator.

If you have a waste management licensing exemption, whether it is registered or not, you must:

  • comply with the exemption conditions
  • renew your exemption if it expires and you want to continue the activity
  • make sure your waste activity does not cause harm to the environment or human health.

Waste management licence exemption conditions

You must comply with any conditions set out in your exemption. Conditions will vary according to the type of waste you have and the activity you carry out. Typically, conditions will include limits on the amount of waste you handle and how long you can carry out the activity.

Further information on waste management licensing exemptions

Northern Ireland

NIEA: Activities exempt from waste management licensing

Scotland

See the SEPA list of waste types with the exemptions that relate to them.

SEPA: Exemption by waste type (MS Excel - 283KB)

If you are unsure whether your activity is covered by an exemption from waste management licensing, or if you need to register an exemption, contact the NIEA or SEPA.

NIEA: Contact details

SEPA: Contacting SEPA

Site plant and mobile plant waste management licences

There are two types of waste management licence:

  • licences for site plant for facilities
  • licences for mobile plant.

If you think you need a licence, contact your environmental regulator to find out which type of licence you need.

NIEA: Contact details

SEPA: Contacting SEPA

If you operate mobile plant that has been licensed in Scotland you can use the plant in England and Wales without an environmental permit.

Environment Agency: Regulatory position statement - The movement and use of treated asphalt waste containing coal tar (Adobe PDF - 66KB)

If you have an environmental permit in England and Wales you must also get a waste management licence to operate mobile plant in Scotland.

Complete an application form

You can apply for, modify, surrender or transfer a waste management licence online.

NIEA: Apply online

SEPA: Application forms

Check if you need planning permission before you can apply for a waste management licence

If your site requires planning approval you must get this before you apply for a waste management licence.

You have planning approval if you have:

  • planning permission
  • lawful development certificate
  • an established use certificate
  • or, in Scotland, if your site is a general permitted development.

To apply for planning approval or for further information contact your planning authority or local council planning service.

DOENI Planning

Scottish Government: Planning system in Scotland

Contact your local council

Provide the correct information

You should apply to your environmental regulator using the official application form and include:

  • site and operator details, demonstrating that you have the right technical competence, experience and money
  • the type and quantities of waste to be handled at the site
  • responsible staff members' details
  • a site-specific risk assessment
  • oanodour risk assessment
  • information on whether planning permission is required.

When your environmental regulator issues you with a waste management licence it will include conditions you have to comply with. These are aimed at preventing your activity causing harm to the environment or human health.

Conditions are likely to cover:

  • types and quantities of waste you can store or treat
  • treatment methods
  • storage times
  • operation and management
  • hours of operation
  • record keeping
  • security levels at your site.

If your site closes, you must continue to comply with your licence conditions until your environmental regulator issues you with a certificate of completion.

Make sure you have the correct qualifications

Your site must be managed by a competent person. This person must be involved in the day to day running of the site.

If you operate a licensed waste management facility you, or someone who works for you, must hold a Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB) Certificate of Technical Competence (CoTC). The level of certificate needed depends on your activities.

Northern Ireland

NIEA: What do you need to apply for a waste management licence?

NIEA: Guidance on Waste Management Licences

Scotland

SEPA: Guidance for PPC permits

SEPA: Guidance for WML

Waste management licence application forms

Northern Ireland

NIEA: Apply online

Scotland

SEPA: Application form

Transferring a waste management licence is passing it to another responsible person, without changing the activities or conditions.

Modifying or varying a waste management licence is changing the conditions of the licence, without changing the activities.

Surrendering a waste management licence is cancelling and ending the licence.

Contact your environmental regulator

In Northern Ireland, if you want to transfer, vary or surrender a waste management licence you should contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

NIEA: Contact details

InScotland, if you want to transfer, modify or surrender or transfer a waste management licence, you should contact your local SEPA office.

SEPA: Contacting SEPA

Transferring a waste management licence

If you want to transfer a waste management licence to another person you need to make a joint application to your environmental regulator. There is an application fee.

NIEA: Apply online

SEPA: Application forms

Modifying or varying a waste management licence

You can apply to change the conditions of your waste management licence, but not the licence itself.

You will need a new waste management licence if you want to:

  • carry out activities not covered by your licence
  • carry out activities outside currently licensed sites.

NIEA: Apply online

SEPA: Application forms

Surrendering a waste management licence

If you no longer keep, treat or dispose of waste you must surrender (cancel) your waste management licence. You must continue to comply with the licence conditions until you have surrendered the licence.

Your environmental regulator will only accept the surrender if the condition of the land is unlikely to cause pollution or harm human health. You may have to continue to look after your site for some time.

NIEA: Apply online

SEPA: Application forms

Further information on changing a waste management licence

If you are unsure about how to transfer, vary or surrender your waste management licence, contact your environmental regulator.

NIEA: Contact details

SEPA: Contacting SEPA

This page provides links to key pieces of relevant environmental legislation. The links will direct you to the Legislation.gov, Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI), Statute Law Database (SLD) or EUR-lex websites.

Remember that different parts of the UK have variations in environmental laws.

If you are setting up an environmental management system (EMS) for your business, you can use this list to start compiling your legal register. Your legal adviser or environmental consultant will be able to tell you if other environmental legislation applies to your specific business.

Environmental management systems and environmental reports

You may also need to know about:

Landfill

Animal by-products and food waste

Pollution prevention and control permits

Northern Ireland

Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 SR 1049 (including updates)

Regulates waste on land, abandoned vehicles, noise nuisance, noise abatement zones, sulphur content of oil fuel used in furnaces and engines, cable burning, and pollution of the atmosphere and water. Other aspects have been revoked.

Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 SI 2778 (including updates)

Sets out the waste management regime covering waste carrier registration and identifying and remedying contaminated land.

Waste Collection and Disposal (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 SR 52

Amends 1992/254. Implements EC Directive 91/156/EEC on waste and makes it an offence to carry out an exempt activity without registering with the local council.

Waste Management Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 SR 493

Covers applications for waste management licences, which authorise the deposit, disposal and treatment of controlled waste.

Includes conditions on the use of certain mobile plant.

Waste Management Licensing (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 SR 76

Amends 2003/493 to change the regime of waste management licensing exemptions in Northern Ireland to ensure compliance with the Hazardous Waste Directive.

Waste Management Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 SR 280

Extends the controlled waste regime to bring mine, quarry and agricultural waste within waste management control.Categorises waste as household, industrial or commercial. Amends existing legislation to further implement Directives on waste and landfill.

Waste Management Licensing (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 SR 301

Amend the Waste Management Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 to update the technical competence element of the Fit and Proper Person test. Update the requirement for a waste management operator to obtain an appropriate level of competence.

Waste Management Licensing (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015/386

Amend the Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) Regulations (NI) 1999 and the Waste Management Licensing Regulations (NI) 2003. The purpose of the Regulations is to update and broaden the prescribed offences element of the waste Fit and Proper Person test to include ‘reputational’ convictions and remove regulations that are no longer extant.

Scotland

Environment Act 1995

Establishes the Environment Agency and SEPA as the regulatory bodies for contaminated land, control of pollution, conservation or enhancement of the environment and fisheries.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

Establishes in England, Scotland and Wales the structure and authority for waste management and control of emissions into the environment.

Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011 SSI 228

Consolidates 1994/1056 and amendments. Adds new exemptions. Removes need for licence holders to have a certificate of technical competence.

Requires businesses carrying their own waste to register as waste carriers.

Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 SSI 226

Enables the partial suspension, revocation, transfer and surrender of site licences, and allows licences held by the same person to be consolidated if they cover the same site or more than one mobile plant.

Further information

The current environmental legislation lists provide links to key environmental statutes and regulations.

Current environmental legislation

For further information on relevant legislation contact your environmental regulator or local council.

Contact your environmental regulator

Contact your local council

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms