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Your Duty of Care – Understanding your legal obligations as a waste producer

Your Duty of Care – Understanding your legal obligations as a waste producer

Posted on August 2nd, 2018

Keeping up to date with changing waste legislation can be a time consuming and complex issue for waste producers. In short, the law requires that anyone dealing with waste to:

keep it safe
ensure that the waste is dealt with responsibly
and, is only passed to authorised businesses

Duty of Care

If you are responsible for importing, producing, transporting, storing, treating or disposing of waste or you are a broker or dealer in control of certain waste in England or Wales then the Duty of Care legislation affects you. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has published its own Duty of Care guidance notes.

Scope of the Duty of Care*

The Duty of Care extends to household, industrial and commercial waste and controlled waste. However, it doesn’t cover waste such as:

  • Waste waters
  • Decommissioned explosives
  • Radioactive waste
  • Animal by products
  • Sewage, sludge or septic tank sludge

Whilst the Duty of Care applies to householders, most household waste is disposed of through local authority waste collection services. Therefore the householders’ responsibility under the Duty of Care is less than other waste producers.

Duty of Care key responsibilities

  • prevent unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal of waste.
  • prevent a breach (failure) by any other person to meet the requirement to have an environmental permit, or a breach of a permit condition.
  • ensure the waste doesn’t escape from your control.
  • ensure that any person you transfer the waste to has the correct authorisation.
  • provide an accurate description of the waste when it is transferred to another person.

When does your Duty of Care end?

Businesses and householders must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their waste completes its journey to treatment or recovery.

Householder responsibilities

For householders this is normally a simple matter of ensuring that their waste is separated into recyclables, food waste (where the service is available) and general waste which is collected by their local authority. For non-routine waste disposal requirements, the homeowner is responsible for ensuring any collection or disposal service complies with waste regulations.

Business responsibilities

It becomes more complex for businesses because of the diverse nature of wastes produced and differing storage and collection procedures. Consequently, it is important that businesses understand and comply with the following obligations, if you:

  • use a waste dealer or broker, you each have a responsibility to comply with your Duty of Care obligations and to ensure that the waste is only transferred to an authorised person.
  • transfer waste to a waste treatment facility for preliminary treatment, you will generally still be responsible for the complete recovery or disposal operation (in accordance with Article 15(2) of the Waste Framework Directive).
  • carry out a waste operation that changes the nature or composition of the waste, you are regarded as a producer of the waste when it leaves your site.

For more guidance you can contact us or read the document published by DEFRA: Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice.

If you suspect that someone is illegally collecting / transporting / storing or disposing of waste, then you shouldn’t accept waste or give your waste to them. If, however you have unwittingly accepted miss-classified waste then you should isolate and report your concerns to the regulator.

* This article excludes the responsibilities associated with prospecting, extraction of related mining activities.

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