Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Treating and disposing of hazardous/special waste

SEPA: Special waste guidance (Scotland)


Treating and disposing of hazardous/special waste

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.

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)

In this guideline

What is hazardous/special waste?

Producing and storing hazardous/special waste

Moving and transferring hazardous/special waste

Treating and disposing of hazardous/special waste

Reducing your hazardous/special waste

Hazardous/special waste environmental legislation

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