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Disposing of business waste – what are the rules?

Any business or company in Scotland that produces waste materials needs to comply with the rules about safe and responsible waste disposal – and the regulations are somewhat different depending on the nature of the waste. We recap what you need to know about staying compliant with commercial waste disposal laws.

Understanding the Commercial Waste Duty of Care

In short, any business in the UK needs to adhere to the rules under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Even small firms need to make sure they aren’t using residential waste disposal facilities and won’t be permitted to skip rubbish at any public waste disposal facilities or recycling plants.

The first step to identifying the right way to deal with your business rubbish is to determine precisely what materials are produced – including by-products of manufacturing or assembly work.

Examples include:

  • Packaging, post and recyclables (plastic, paper, cardboard).
  • Cleaning materials.
  • Cooking oils or other used oil products.
  • Waste and packaging from food and drinks.
  • Furniture waste, including scrapped office furniture.
  • General waste.

There are two primary options for staying on the right side of the law – either making your own arrangements to deal with waste disposal or using an appropriately licensed waste carrier, with accreditations where required to deal with hazardous waste products.

Waste Disposal Options for Businesses in Scotland

The issue with waste disposal is that there are considerable costs involved. You might opt to purchase a particular vehicle for this purpose but still need to pay per load to offload at any waste or recycling centre.

Other expenses include the personnel time, waste bins and collection items, licensing required to transport waste and training in safe handling, manual handling and safe management of waste materials.

Each time you remove a load of waste, you need to have a waste transfer note. This legally mandatory document details:

  • What waste you tipped, and when.
  • How much it weighed, and where it was disposed of.

The other option is to use a private contractor who provides a range of services. These depend on the needs of your business but usually include options around:

  • Different-sized wheelie bins or storage containers.
  • Waste removal, with empties often bi-weekly, weekly or fortnightly.
  • Disposal of that waste at an appropriately licensed disposal plant.
  • Provision of waste transfer notes for each waste load collected.

For most businesses, it is substantially cheaper to hire a contractor since the costs of renting waste bins and paying for the empties is much less than having to hire staff, vehicles and invest in training and licensing.

Substantial businesses may find it more economical to create their own waste disposal department. Still, it is wise to consider the total budget outlay and the potential additional costs since disposal laws and licenses can change and require updates regularly.

Choosing a Scottish Waste Disposal Contractor

There are a few key factors you need to ensure included in your waste disposal contract:

  • A contractor who is licensed with the Environment Agency both to carry (transport) and dispose of your waste.
  • Responsible waste management policies to ensure recyclable materials are disposed of correctly to allow the materials to be reused.
  • Provision of waste transfer notes to ensure your legal obligations are satisfied.

Deciding to dispose of waste yourself or using an unlicensed contractor can carry severe penalties.

  • Failure to legally dispose of waste results in a fixed-notice penalty or a court summons.
  • Duty of care breaches carries £300 penalties or a £5,000 fine following prosecution.
    Illegal disposals can be fined at £400 as a fixed penalty and result in unlimited fines and up to five years in prison.
  • Failure to comply with notices carries a £110 penalty notice, with fines up to £1,000.
  • Of course, the risks to a business aren’t just in fines or penalties, but in business interruption, reputation, and being prosecuted as a business owner with the potential for imprisonment.

Commercial Waste Disposal Compliance in Scotland

The Clearway Scotland team is always on hand to provide further guidance about waste disposal options for commercial businesses throughout the region.

We would strongly advise assessing your company waste disposal practices if in any doubt as to whether they comply with the Environmental Protection Act.

Responsibility for responsible waste disposal always falls onto the owners or directors of a business, depending on the company’s structure. Therefore it is essential to make sure you know how, when and where your rubbish is being tipped to be confident that you will pass any environmental inspections with flying colours.

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