Disposing of waste – general legal requirements

Anyone who produces waste has a duty of care to ensure that any waste they are responsible for is managed properly.  This includes householders and businesses, but also includes other organisations such as charities, churches, clubs, public and voluntary services, and other organisations.

The law requires anyone dealing with waste to keep it safe and prevent it from causing litter or pollution; make sure it is dealt with responsibly; and only pass it on to businesses authorised to take it. The legal duties apply to household, industrial and commercial waste and are set out in the Code of Practice.

If you manage waste on behalf of others

If your organisation or service transports, buys, sells or disposes of waste on behalf you must register as a waste carrier with the Environment Agency.  You also need to register as a waste carrier if you carry construction or demolition waste – even if this is waste is produced by your own business.  It is an offence to carry waste without holding the correct registration unless you can show that you are exempt from registration.

If you are a business or organisation

Businesses and organisations are expected to follow strict standards in managing their waste.  You can find out more at:

Business waste and recycling

If you are a householder

Householders still have a duty to take all reasonable measures to ensure household waste is only disposed of by an authorised person or business.  In most cases, your household waste will be collected by the council; or you can arrange a bulky item collection from the council; or you can bring waste to the council’s recycling centre free of charge.

If you produce waste that cannot be included in normal household waste services, you will need to arrange your own collection privately at your own cost.  This might include:

  • undertaking works in your home using a tradesman (eg builder, landscape gardener, carpet fitter) where larger quantities of waste are produced by the works
  • clearing larger quantities of waste items from your home or garden, and hiring a skip for disposal
  • disposing of waste items not included in household waste collections, such as motor vehicles or parts

You are responsible for the waste which is produced, and you must take all reasonable steps to ensure you arrange safe disposal and comply with legal requirements. If your waste is illegally disposed of (eg flytipped), or if you pass waste on to someone who is not a registered waste carrier, you may have committed a criminal offence, and you could be prosecuted and fined.   The requirement to register applies both to waste companies, and to ‘man-with-van’ businesses who may carry waste as an occasional part of their business, but still must be registered to do so.

You can check if a waste carrier is registered using the Environment Agency's online search facility before passing on waste for disposal or recycling – or ask for a copy of the registration document from the waste company you are using.  Keep a copy, such as screenshot or printed copy of the registration so you can prove you have taken all reasonable steps to check your waste carrier is operating lawfully.

Page last updated: 06 November 2018