Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

What is waste?

What is waste?

Waste is hard to define, but is generally anything that you discard, intend to discard or are required to discard. This covers more than just objects and substances you have decided to dispose of. Material being recovered, eg sent for recycling or prepared for reuse, is also waste.

Examples of waste include:

  • used packaging
  • used paper
  • rubble, timber and plasterboard from demolition
  • trade effluent, such as condensate water from compressed-air equipment
  • old pieces of electrical equipment

Once a substance or object has become waste, it will remain waste until it has been fully recovered and no longer poses a potential threat to the environment or human health. When something becomes waste it becomes more tightly regulated.

If you are not sure whether a substance or object is classed as waste, contact your environmental regulator.

Contact your environmental regulator

Business waste and domestic waste

Business waste or trade waste or commercial waste is any material disposed of by any organisation, whether for profit or not and whether public or private.

Domestic waste is waste generated by households.

NetRegs guidance refers to business waste.

What is hazardous/special waste?

Waste that is harmful to human health or the natural environment is known as hazardous waste in Northern Ireland and special waste in Scotland.

Examples of hazardous/special waste include:

  • lead-acid batteries
  • fluorescent light tubes
  • electrical equipment containing hazardous components, such as cathode ray tubes in televisions
  • waste oils
  • solvents
  • discarded chemicals
  • asbestos

Further information

NetRegs: Duty of Care for waste (Scotland) leaflet (PDF - 775KB)

DAERA: Waste information

SEPA: About waste

NetRegs: Duty of Care e-learning tools: Scotland and Northern Ireland versions. Sign up to use the free interactive e-learning tools.

In this Guideline

What is waste?

What is the duty of care for waste?

New waste duties for buisnesses in Northern Ireland

New waste duties for businesses in Scotland

Who can deal with your waste

Waste Transfer Notes and how to complete them

European Waste Catalogue (EWC) - waste codes

Waste storage

Controls on specific types of waste

Landfill waste

Carrying out waste management activities yourself

Duty of Care for Waste Legislation

Environmental News Blog

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms