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Waste management 'duty of care'

For current duty of care guidance and legislation see the GOV.UK business and commercial waste pages.


All producers and handlers of wastes have a legal Duty of Care for their wastes. This is a legal requirement that wastes must not escape their control until passed to a registered waste carrier. Even then producers and handlers of wastes continue to have responsibility for their wastes until their final treatment or disposal.

When producers neglect their responsibilities by leaving wastes unprotected, burning them or tipping liquid wastes down the drain, there are consequences of litter, pollution and the community being expected to clear up and pay for disposal. The council estimates that a significant minority of those subject to the Duty of Care may be at fault in some way.

The council takes action to raise awareness and tackle this problem. Duty of care inspections will be made in response to problems reported or discovered by officers. Producers of wastes should expect to be asked to produce waste transfer notes for inspection. Duty of care offenders can expect to receive Fixed Penalty Notices or face prosecution.

Definition of ‘wastes’ subject to duty of care

A ‘waste’ is any substance which the person in possession discards or intends to discard.  This is a wide definition.

Who has a legal duty of care

Anyone who produces or handles wastes, from the point of production to final disposal, is subject to the waste management Duty of Care.

There are specific exceptions for certain wastes subject to other systems of control.

Legal requirements - when you have waste

You must stop it escaping from your control. You must store it safely and securely. You must prevent it causing pollution or harming anyone.

First, make it secure. Keep it in a suitable container. If you put loose waste in a skip or on a lorry, cover it.  Do not allow it to be burned or tipped down the drain.

Second, if you give waste to someone else, check they have authority to take it. The law says the person to whom you give your waste must be authorised to take it.

Third, you must describe the waste in writing. You must fill in and sign a transfer note for it. You must keep copies of waste transfer notes for two years. 

You must keep all waste transfer notes for a minimum of two years and furnish them to the council or another enforcing authority when required to do so. Offenders can expect to receive Fixed Penalty Notices or face prosecution.

Legal requirements - when you take a waste from someone else

First, you must be sure the law allows you to take it.If you plan to accept wastes from another carrier, you should double-check that they are acting lawfully.

Second, make sure the person giving you the waste describes it in writing. You must fill in and sign a transfer note. You must keep a copy of the transfer note.

Authorised carriers of wastes

It is important that producers only permit their wastes to be removed by legally authorised carriers.  Otherwise both the producer and the carrier commit an offence. Note that unlawful carriers are unlikely to take wastes to a fit and proper place of disposal.

Your options will most commonly be an officially registered carrier, a fully licensed waste management contractor, or your local council as the waste collection authority.

Registered waste carriers should be able to produce a certificate of registration demonstrating their legal authorisation which is obtained from the Environment Agency. Note that carriers may only be registered to accept certain types of waste. To be sure you are dealing with a genuine registered carrier and they are entitled to accept your wastes, you can check with the Environment Agency by telephone - 08708 506 506.

Last updated: 02 March 2020

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