Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Separating and storing waste

Separating and storing waste

You should separate waste materials into different types (paper and cardboard, plastics, metals, etc) for storage, transport and recycling. You should store your waste securely in sealed, labelled containers ready for recycling or disposal.

You should check whether you need a permit or exemption if you are storing your own waste for recycling or disposal. See the page on how to store waste correctly in our guide: Duty of Care - your waste responsibilities


Check if you have hazardous/special waste

Hazardous/special waste may be harmful to human health or the environment. It is not usually suitable for in-house recycling, as there are strict controls on how you can store, transport and process it.

Hazardous/special waste


Prevent pollution during storage and transport

You must prevent waste from escaping and causing pollution. Take steps to prevent:

  • leaks from storage containers and tanks
  • wind-blown litter
  • waste escaping during transport
  • leaks from waste processing machinery, for example hydraulic oils from waste compactors.

Be aware that some materials you store for recycling can contaminate land and you could be responsible for clean up costs. For example, poorly handled fluorescent tubes could smash, spreading mercury across your site.

Pollution incident response planning

Environmental damage

Separating and storing waste

Store waste in areas that can contain a leak or spill and are isolated from surface water drainage systems.

Label containment areas or bins for different materials and activities. Consider using colour coding for quick identification, eg red for hazardous waste and green for glass.

Do not mix any hazardous wastes with other waste or you will need to dispose of all of it as hazardous waste.

If possible, remove contaminants such as metal staples or adhesive tape from materials before recycling. This could make your materials more valuable as they will require less treatment.

Separate and store plastics according to their grade and type. The three most common types of recyclable plastic are:

  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • high density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

WRAP: Types of plastic in packaging

You will need to agree with your waste management contractor how you separate your waste for collection.


Compacting waste

If you have a large amount of waste, use a baler or compactor to crush materials into blocks or bales. This allows you to transport larger volumes in one go, which could save you money.

If you do compact your waste, you should:

  • drain and clean waste containers that held liquid - eg drums, plastic bottles and cartons - before you compact them
  • keep paper and card dry to prevent polluting run-off from the compactor
  • separate the area around the compactor from surface water drains to prevent pollution - drainage should go to a foul sewer with permission from your water and sewerage company
  • stack blocks of baled materials securely so they won't fall over and spill materials around your site
  • move blocks of baled materials around your site carefully - roughly handled bales may split, spilling materials around your site.

You may need to register an exemption from waste management licensing before you can use your baler or compactor. You should contact your environmental regulator for more information.

Contact your environmental regulator


Further information

NIEA: Waste exemptions

SEPA and Resource Efficient Scotland: Segregating materials for recycling leaflet

SEPA: Waste exemptions

In this guideline

Business benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling waste

Choosing a waste management option

Reducing waste

Reusing waste

Recycling waste

Treating and composting biodegradable waste

Recovering energy and producing fuel from waste

Disposing of waste

Separating and storing waste

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