Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Hazardous / special waste

Waste is considered to be hazardous when it might be harmful to human health or the environment. Examples of waste with hazardous properties include chemicals, oil, asbestos, waste electrical equipment which contain potentially harmful components such as cathode ray tubes,  energy-saving light bulbs and printer cartridges.

If your business produces waste with hazardous properties you must comply with legal obligations that control how you store, transport, treat and dispose of it.

This guide presents the legal definition for waste with hazardous properties and what you need to do to comply with your legal responsibilities. It also suggests measures that you can take to reduce the amount of these wastes that you produce, which can save you money on disposal costs and reduce your impact on the environment.

Additional resources

Waste is defined as 'hazardous waste' (in Northern Ireland) or 'special waste' (in Scotland) if it is classified as 'hazardous' in the European Waste Catalogue (or List of Wastes). Generally, waste is hazardous/special if it, or the materials or substances it contains, are harmful to human health or the environment.

Examples of hazardous/special waste

Almost all businesses produce some hazardous/special waste. Typical examples of this waste include waste:

  • asbestos
  • chemicals, eg brake fluid and printer toner
  • electrical equipment with potentially harmful components such as cathode ray tubes - eg computer monitors and televisions
  • fluorescent light tubes and energy-saving light bulbs
  • vehicle batteries and other lead-acid batteries
  • oils (except edible oils) - eg engine oil
  • refrigerators containing ozone-depleting substances
  • solvents - eg aerosols
  • pesticides.

Check if your waste is hazardous/special

Check the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) to find out if a waste is hazardous/special waste.

The EWC is a list of waste types, with six-digit codes for all types of waste. Hazardous wastes' codes are marked with an asterisk (*). In Scotland, 'hazardous waste' is called 'special waste'.

There are two kinds of hazardous waste entry in the EWC, absolute hazardous entries and mirror hazardous entries:

  • 'Absolute Hazardous' entries – the waste is always hazardous/special waste, whatever the concentration of the dangerous substances in it. These wastes are marked in the List with an asterisk (*) For example:

07 07 07* halogenated still bottoms and reaction residues A

  • 'Mirror' hazardous entries – the waste is considered hazardous/special waste if the hazardous substance(s) it contains are above a specified threshold concentration(s) For example: .

17 05 03* Soil and stones containing dangerous substances M

Mirror hazardous entries have an alternative paired non-hazardous entry (or entries). For example:

17 05 04 soil and stones other than those mentioned in 17 05 03

And there are also Absolute Non-Hazardous entries – the waste type is always non-hazardous and they do not have a link to a mirror hazardous entry. For example

03 01 01 waste bark and cork

Check your safety data sheets

If you receive materials or chemicals at your site, they should be accompanied by a safety data sheet. The information on the safety data sheet can help you decide if your waste is hazardous/special, provided the chemicals have not changed due to being used or mixed with other substances.

If you are unsure whether your waste is hazardous/special, you should contact the NIEA in Northern Ireland or SEPA in Scotland, or a specialist waste management contractor.

Further information

Find licensed waste sites to recycle or dispose of business waste in your area

NIEA: Hazardous waste guidance (Northern Ireland)

SEPA: Special waste guidance (Scotland)

Waste Thesaurus: SEPA guidance for coding waste An alphabetical list of waste types with their corresponding EWC codes

All businesses that produce waste have a duty of care to make sure that it is handled and stored safely. If the waste is hazardous/special, extra controls apply.

How much hazardous/special waste you can store

You do not need a waste management licence or pollution prevention and control permit if you store hazardous/special waste on the site where it was produced for up to 12 months while you wait for it to be collected. The maximum amount of hazardous/special waste you can store is:

  • 23,000 litres of liquid waste stored in a secure container
  • either 80 cubic metres (m³) of any other type of waste stored in a secure container, or 50m³ stored in a secure place.

If you cannot meet these conditions - for example if you store hazardous/special waste for longer than 12 months - you must have a waste management licence or a pollution prevention and control permit.

Environmental permits and licences – an overview

How to store hazardous/special waste

If you keep hazardous/special waste on your premises, even for a short period of time, you must:

  • ensure that it is stored safely and securely to prevent pollution
  • ensure that it is packaged and labelled correctly
  • keep the different types of hazardous/special waste separate
  • keep hazardous /special and non-hazardous waste separate
  • keep liquid hazardous/special waste in a dedicated area, with a bund or barrier to contain spills and leaks
  • regularly check storage areas for leaks, deteriorating containers or other potential risks
  • display written instructions for storing and disposing of each type of hazardous/special waste
  • maintain an inventory of the hazardous/special wastes kept on your premises, and where they are stored - this will help the emergency services to deal with any incident effectively and safely.

You must assess risks posed by any hazardous substances that you store on your site, including hazardous/special waste, and take steps to control those risks.

Train your staff

Make sure your staff are properly trained to deal with spills of the hazardous materials that you store on your premises. This should include instructions on what to do if there is a spill, the type of personal protection equipment required and how to correctly dispose of contaminated clean-up materials. See Pollution Prevention Guideline 21 (PPG 21).

PPG 21: Pollution incident response planning

Further information

NIEA: Hazardous waste guidance (Northern Ireland)

SEPA: Special waste guidance (Scotland)

Environmental permits and licences – an overview

All businesses that produce waste have a duty of care to make sure that it is handled safely and transported in compliance with the law. If the waste is hazardous/special, extra controls apply.

Moving hazardous/special waste

Make sure all hazardous/special waste is:

  • transported by a registered or exempt waste carrier
  • accompanied by a consignment note (there are only a few exceptions where consignment notes are not required)
  • sent to a facility that holds a suitable pollution prevention and control permit, waste management licence or a registered exemption that authorises them to take that type of waste for the activity they intend.

You can contact the NIEA to check if your carrier is registered or has an exemption.

NIEA Waste carriers information contact details

DAERA: Waste Management Licensing Public Register

In Scotland, check that your carrier is registered or has an exemption by contacting SEPA. You can also see a list of registered waste carriers online:

SEPA: A list of registered waste carriers (Scotland)

Zero Waste Scotland: Business resource centre (Scotland)

Before moving hazardous/special waste, you should evaluate the recycling, recovery and disposal options available for the waste you produce.

Pre-notify your environmental regulator

In Northern Ireland, you must pre-notify the NIEA at least 72 hours and not more than one month before any hazardous waste leaves your site. You do this by filling in a consignment note

In Scotland, you must pre-notify SEPA before special waste leaves your site if it is a single movement of waste or the first in a series of movements. You do this by completing parts A and B of the pre-notification sheet of a consignment note. The pre-notification sheet must be delivered to SEPA at least 72 hours and not more than one month before special waste is moved within Scotland, or imported into Scotland from England or Wales.

Some hazardous/special waste movements are exempt from pre-notification. The exemption will apply to you if:

  • you regularly produce and transport the same type of waste to the same disposal or recovery facility - you only need to pre-notify your environmental regulator (NIEA or SEPA) of the first consignment in any one year, provided you refer to the number of the initial pre-notification in all consignment notes
  • your business operates on a number of sites, and you transport your hazardous/special waste to a site that you own that holds a suitable licence, permit or exemption to receive the waste
  • you return faulty products or materials as hazardous/special waste to the supplier or manufacturer
  • your consignment only contains lead-acid vehicle batteries.

Movements of hazardous/special wastes that are exempt from pre-notification must still be accompanied by a consignment note.

Use consignment notes when moving hazardous/special waste

When you move hazardous/special waste from your premises it must be accompanied by a consignment note. This includes moving it to any other site that you may operate. The waste must be accompanied by a consignment note until it reaches its final destination. You need to use one consignement note per vehicle. You must keep a copy of all consignment notes for three years. There are only a very few exceptions where consignment notes are not needed.

Your waste carrier can use single or multiple collection forms. In Scotland, when waste is picked up from more than one producer you need to use a carrier's schedule, which you can get from SEPA.

Your consignment note must include a unique code.

In Northern Ireland you can buy consignment notes and unique codes from the NIEA.

In Scotland you can obtain consignment notes and unique codes from SEPA.

SEPA: Order consignment notes online

NIEA: Guide to completing the paperwork for hazardous waste movements (Northern Ireland) (PDF, 440K)

In Northern Ireland, you will have to include new information on your consignment notes to declare that you have applied the waste management hierarchy for dealing with your waste. This means you must take all practicable steps to reuse or recycle your waste before deciding to dispose of it.

See the page on choosing a waste management option in our guideline: Reduce, reuse and recycle your business waste

SEPA: Guide to consigning special waste (Scotland) (PDF, 1.4MB)

Waste Thesaurus: SEPA guidance for coding waste An alphabetical list of waste types with their corresponding EWC codes.

Cross-border movements of hazardous/special waste

All hazardous waste produced within Northern Ireland or Scotland must be consigned using a consignment note or number issued by the NIEA in Northern Ireland or SEPA in Scotland, regardless of its final destination within the UK.

If you export hazardous/ special waste from Northern Ireland or Scotland, to England or Wales, the site which receives the waste must send a completed deposit note to the NIEA for Northern Ireland, or SEPA for Scotland.

If you export hazardous waste from Northern Ireland to Scotland, the site which receives the waste must send a completed deposit note to their local SEPA office. SEPA will then forward a copy of the note to the NIEA.

If you export special waste from Scotland to Northern Ireland, the site which receives the waste must send a completed deposit note to the local NIEA office, which will then forward a copy of the note to SEPA.

Meet carriage of dangerous goods requirements

If you transport hazardous/special waste you must comply with controls on the carriage of dangerous goods.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE): Carriage of dangerous goods

Further information

DAERA: Waste Management Licensing Public Register (Northern Ireland)

NIEA: Authorised waste carrier register (Northern Ireland)

Find licensed waste sites

SEPA: A list of authorised waste carriers (Scotland)

If your business produces hazardous/special waste, you must make sure that it is disposed of or treated by an appropriate facility. You must not treat your own hazardous/special waste unless you are authorised to do so, and have the required in-house skills and facilities. Hazardous waste is waste that may be harmful to human health or the environment

Some hazardous/special waste such as solvents, waste oils and metals can be recovered and recycled. Some hazardous/special waste can be incinerated, usually with other fuels, to generate power. Specialist incinerators for the most difficult hazardous/special wastes work at extremely high temperatures and have strict emission controls.

Treating hazardous/special waste

Treatment involves physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes (including sorting) that change the characteristics of waste in order to:

  • reduce its volume
  • reduce its hazardous nature
  • make it easier to handle
  • make it easier to recover.

Diluting hazardous/special waste by mixing it with non-hazardous materials doesn't qualify as treatment. If hazardous/special waste is mixed in this way it must still be classified and managed as hazardous/special waste, or separated when it is safe to do so.

Mixing different categories of hazardous/special waste, or hazardous/special waste with non-hazardous waste or non-waste, is only allowed in certain circumstances and always requires a permit.

DEFRA: Guidance on mixing hazardous/special waste (PDF, 21K)

Disposing of hazardous/special waste

You must only dispose of hazardous/special waste at authorised sites.

Waste Sites directory

You should try to reduce and recycle your hazardous/special waste before sending it for disposal.

See the page in this guideline: Reducing your hazardous/special waste

Make sure that your waste is transported by a registered or exempt waste carrier.

NIEA: Checking that your waste carrier is registered or exempt (Northern Ireland)

In Scotland, contact SEPA to find out if your waste carrier is registered or has an exemption. You can also find a list of registered waste carriers online:

SEPA: A list of registered waste carriers (Scotland)

Disposing of hazardous/special waste to landfill

If you intend to take hazardous/special waste to a landfill site, you must use a site that is authorised to accept it.

Hazardous waste landfill sites may not be able to take all types of hazardous/special waste. Landfill sites will only accept certain types of hazardous/special waste if all of the following requirements are met:

  • the landfill site's permit allows the type of waste
  • waste acceptance criteria (WAC) are met
  • the landfill operator is prepared to accept the waste.

Certain types of hazardous/special waste are banned from landfill sites including those that are explosive, corrosive, flammable or infectious. All liquid waste is also banned from landfill.

Hazardous/special waste must be treated before it is sent to landfill.

Exporting hazardous/special waste

Hazardous/special waste can only be exported for recovery or recycling (not for disposal) to another Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country. Exports can only be made by authorised treatment facilities.

Importing and exporting waste

Further Information

Waste Thesaurus: SEPA guidance for coding waste An alphabetical list of waste types with their corresponding EWC codes.

Find licensed waste sites to recycle or dispose of business waste in your area

NIEA: Hazardous waste guidance (Northern Ireland)

SEPA: Special waste guidance (Scotland)

It is expensive to dispose of hazardous/special waste, and it is likely to become more costly in the future. It therefore makes sound business sense to reduce the amount of hazardous/special waste your business produces. This can often be done at relatively little or even no extra cost.

You might consider the following:

  • Choose non-hazardous or less hazardous alternatives for materials or components. Even small reductions in your use of hazardous materials can make a big impact on your waste management costs.
  • Improve the efficiency of your processes to reduce the quantity of materials that you use and cut down on waste.
  • Introduce more effective quality control procedures to reduce the number of defective products that you make and have to throw away.
  • Minimise the need for cleaning equipment. Some cleaning is necessary, but better working practices can reduce both the frequency and the extent of cleaning, reducing the amount of potentially contaminating effluents that you produce.
  • Recover materials that are used and discarded. Some of these may be reused on site, others can be sent off site for recycling, treatment or recovery. It is important to investigate this, and where necessary discuss with an outside contractor, before you make changes to your existing processes. See our guideline: Reduce, reuse and recycle your business waste
  • Change the design of your products or processes to eliminate the use of hazardous materials. You will also save money because you will not need to use a specialist disposal regime. See our guideline: Eco-design and eco-labeling of energy related products
  • Separate your waste to prevent contamination. Contamination can create larger volumes of hazardous/special waste.

To find the best way of reducing the amount of hazardous/special waste you produce, talk to your material and component suppliers, get advice from your trade association, look at similar businesses or contact your environmental regulator (NIEA in Northern Ireland, or in Scotland your local SEPA office)

Contact your enviromental regulator

Further Information

NIEA: Hazardous waste guidance (Northern Ireland)

SEPA: Special waste guidance (Scotland)

Find licensed waste sites to recycle or dispose of business waste in your area

This page provides links to the full text of key pieces of environmental legislation relating to hazardous waste. The websites hosting the legislation may list amendments separately.

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 (EMS) and environmental reports

Hazardous waste legislation in Northern Ireland

European Community (EC) Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures 1272/2008 Requires manufacturers, importers and users to follow United Nations criteria for classifying, labelling and packaging hazardous substances and mixtures.

Hazardous Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2005/300 Details the regime for controlling and tracking the movement of hazardous waste.

Hazardous Waste (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2005/461 Amends 2005/300 in terms of offences and penalties.

Hazardous Waste (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 SR 238 Amend a number of pieces of legislation to bring into effect the changes introduced by Commission Decision 2014/955/EU amending Decision 2000/532/EC on the list of waste. CD 2000/532/EC is directly binding as regards determination of waste that is to be considered as hazardous waste and the changes introduced by way of the amending decision come into effect on 1 June 2015. Revokes the List of Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005.

Hazardous Waste (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 SR 288

Amend a number of pieces of Northern Ireland legislation to take account of new requirements within EU legislation. They bring into effect the changes introduced by Commission Decision 2014/955/EU amending Decision 2000/532/EC (the Decision) on the list of waste pursuant to Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament of the Council. Commission Decision 2000/532/EC is directly binding as regards determination of waste that is to be considered as hazardous waste. Revokes the List of Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005.

Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1997/2778 (including updates). Sets out the waste management regime covering waste carrier registration and identifying and remedying contaminated land.

Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. Gives the Department of Environment and district councils similar investigative, enforcement and clean up powers to deal with illegally dumped waste. Changes the legislative framework for management of land that has been contaminated by pollution.

Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2011/127 Requires businesses to apply the waste management hierarchy, introduces a two-tier system for waste carrier registration, establishes waste prevention programmes and makes consequential amendments to various other pieces of legislation.

 

Special waste legislation in Scotland

European Community (EC) Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures 1272/2008 Requires manufacturers, importers and users to follow United Nations criteria for classifying, labelling and packaging hazardous substances and mixtures.

Environmental Protection Act 1990. Establishes the structure and authority for waste management and control of emissions into the environment.

Special Waste Regulations SI 1996/972 Provides a definition of 'special waste' in Scotland to cover all hazardous waste. Regulates waste carriers by requiring them to complete and keep consignment notes.

Special Waste (Amendment) Regulations SI 1996/2019. Amends 1996/972 by updating the approved supply list, amending the definition of 'household waste', and extending the definition of 'special waste'. Also allows for one set of documents to be required where different waste types are collected on a carrier's round.

Special Waste (Amendment) Regulations SI 1997/251. Amends 1996/972 to revise the qualifications and experience required to deal with special waste.

Special Waste (Scotland) Regulations SI 1997/257. Establishes that managers of specified waste facilities operated by local authorities who meet certain criteria should be treated as technically competent for special waste facilities.

Special Waste Amendment (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2004/112. Amends 1996/972 to define special waste and sets out controls on labelling, packaging and separating it. Also requires consignment notes to be completed when special waste is transferred and producers to keep a register of documents for at least three years.

Special Waste Amendment (Scotland) Amendment Regulations SSI 2004/204. Inserts a new regulation into 1996/972 requiring producers of special waste to keep a register of documents.

The Waste (Meaning of Hazardous Waste and European Waste Catalogue) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2015

Amend a number of pieces of legislation to bring into effect the changes introduced by Commission Decision 2014/955/EU amending Decision 2000/532/EC on the list of waste. Introduces amendments to the list of wastes in the European Waste Catalogue. The changes come into effect on 1 June 2015.

Other useful legislation

Waste management licensing legislation

Pollution prevention and control (PPC) permits legislation

Current and future legislation section

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