Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Waste management licensing exemptions

Waste management licensing exemptions

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


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

Back to Waste Management Licencing home page

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NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms