The disposal of hazardous waste is, in the United Kingdom, is very tightly monitored, and regulated by the Hazardous Waste Regulations which came into force in July 2005 as a replacement for the Special Waste Regulations Act of 1996.
This type of waste can be very dangerous for human health and have irreversible consequences for the environment and therefore needs extra cautious handling.
The Hazardous Waste Regulations sets out the law regarding the control of hazardous waste in England and Wales. Hazardous substance producers have to be registered under these regulations.
Examples of hazardous waste:
- Clinical waste
- Industrial chemicals
Emergency regulations have been set out by the Environment Agency regarding clinical waste disposal, considered hazardous waste, during the Covid-19 pandemic, which allows facilities to exceptionally store and treat orange bag clinical waste that may be contaminated with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Activities involving hazardous substances need to be carefully regulated, and it is the reason why that, in addition to general waste management obligations such as duty of care, several laws regarding hazardous waste have been established given the dangerousness and the toxicity of the substances it contains, controlling their storage, handling and transport.
In order to be able to dispose of hazardous waste, waste producers have to complete different documentation such as a hazardous waste consignment notes when sending waste for treatment or disposal.
In addition to the Hazardous waste regulations, there are many laws regulating the production and disposal of hazardous waste, including the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 or Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, which aim to regulate risk assessment related to hazardous waste.
The dangerousness and toxicity of these substances have made, since 2004, mixing hazardous and non-hazardous waste in landfill sites prohibited, which resulted in a very limited amount of landfill sites accepting hazardous waste in the UK, which now needs to be disposed of using alternative disposal methods or treatments in order to reduce its toxicity.
In order to define whether waste is hazardous, it needs to be listed in the List of Wastes Regulation (Properties and characteristics of dangerous substances classified as hazardous waste).
Producers of hazardous waste are required, under the regulations, to register their premises with the Environment Agency in England and Wales. Which makes it possible to enforce better hazardous waste management protocols.
As a hazardous waste producers or carrier, here's hazardous waste procedures that must be followed whilst carrying out waste treatment or hazardous waste recycling.
In order to be able to operate, every commercial premises producing over 500kg of waste are legally required to notify their existence to the Environment Agency, and failing to do so is considered a criminal offence. Compliance with the hazardous waste regulations regarding registration also includes the following rules:
- Unregistered site cannot have hazardous waste collected from them.
- Contractors need to be shown proof of registration by waste producers prior to collection (unique code number)
- Registrations must be renewed annually
Consignment of Hazardous Waste
Under the Regulations, whenever waste has to be removed from a site, a complete documentation system has to be completed in order to carry on with the operations, as described on the guidance available on the gov.uk website, including:
- A detailed description of the waste.
- The process giving rise to the waste.
- The quantity of waste to be removed.
- A list of the chemical components with their concentrations.
- Container type, size and number.
- Waste destination.
Before the waste can be removed, the hazardous waste producer must provide each of the following with a copy of the consignment note:
- The consignee
- The hazardous waste producer
- The carrier
Businesses have a legal duty of care to ensure that hazardous waste is only transferred to a disposal or treatment site who is allowed to have hazardous waste with an environmental permit.
Mixing of Hazardous Waste
Mixing hazardous waste with regular waste is prohibited under the Hazardous waste regulations previously mentioned, by anyone who carries out its disposal, production or transport. However, it can be allowed under the conditions of the environmental permit.
Waste must be treated with the adequate equipment that meets the requirements set out in the Guidance for the Recovery and Disposal of Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Waste.
Separation of Mixed Wastes
Where hazardous waste has been mixed, separation must be carried out by professionals when technically and economically possible, in accordance with an environmental permit.
The producer or consignor has a legal duty to ensure that the consignment note is completed properly before carrying on with the operations, by:
- Signing each copy
- Retaining one copy
- Giving every remaining copy to the carrier.
In instances where more than one carrier transports the waste, further paperwork needs to be completed as stated in section 3(b) of the hazardous waste regulations.
Hazardous waste identification
Hazardous waste must be recorded and identified by anyone who disposes of or stores it.
Records must include:
- A site plan
- An up-to-date register
- Identification of deposits
When waste is transferred into England, there is no requirement for a consignment note under the Hazardous Waste regulations, when relevant documentation regarding waste control is provided.
Transfers into England from within the United Kingdom, as well as Gibraltar, must use the consignment note of the country of origin which needs to contain all the necessary information a consignment note would normally need to contain as mentioned above.
If the waste is accepted by the consignee, a copy of the cross-border consignment note needs to be sent to the relevant authority depending on the area.
When it comes to waste transferred from England, a consignment note in accordance with the Hazardous waste regulations needs to be filled.
Transfers between England and Wales are not considered to be cross-border movements, as the same format for consignment note is used in both parts of the United Kingdom.
Storage and Handling of Hazardous Waste
Given the toxicity of hazardous waste, its storage presents a high number of risks to the workers’ health and safety.
Therefore, companies of five employees or more handling and/or storing waste that could potentially be harmful must comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
Finally, a risk assessment has be carried out in order to determine all the toxic substances to which workers may be exposed during removal or transport.
Permits for Waste Storage
Environmental permits are not legally required for the temporary storage of regular waste, and any quantity of waste can be stored for up to 12 months without the need to apply for a permit or register an exemption.
However, if hazardous waste is being stored without the relevant permit, the holder could face charges under s.33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Any member of staff involved in handling hazardous waste is legally required to receive appropriate training in line with health and safety regulations(Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.)
Under the carriage of dangerous goods legislation, drivers in charge of the transport of hazardous substances are required to have received health and safety training.
In addition, waste industry managers are required to demonstrate appropriate technical competence prior to the obtention of an environmental permit.
Periodic inspections of hazardous waste producers are conducted in order to ensure that they comply with hazardous waste regulations, which introduced a £300 fixed penalty notice for any breach of these regulations, such as:
- Failure to hold an appropriate permit when disposing of hazardous waste.
- Mixing non-hazardous waste with hazardous waste.
- Failing to comply with consignment notes requirements.