Commercial waste legal responsibilities

If your waste is discovered to have been disposed of illegally (even by your waste carrier) you or your company may face legal proceedings. The penalties for not managing business waste legally can be severe; up to £50 000 or even prison for the worst cases.

The Environment Agency and your local Council have enforcement powers on waste and work together to prosecute illegal waste operations.

Research shows that some local companies, especially small companies, sole traders etc are not aware of their responsibility around their waste.

This includes:

  • companies not keeping records
  • taking their waste to unlicensed sites
  • illegal waste transfer notes
  • waste collected by unlicensed ‘waste’ companies
  • business waste being fly tipped, put in litter bins or taken to household waste centres.

Every business has a legal 'duty of care' to ensure that any waste it produces or handles is stored, transported, treated, reprocessed and disposed of legally and safely. If you give your waste to anyone else you must be sure they are authorised to take it.

The Council is not responsible for the removal of trade waste and public facilities must not be used for the disposal of it, no matter how small or large the amount of waste. This includes:

  • domestic bins
  • litter bins
  • household waste recycling centres (tips)
  • recycling banks.

It’s simple to be legal. Your waste options are to transport yourself or have your waste collected

Waste transfer agreements

The simplest solution may be to set up a waste transfer agreement with a properly registered waste collection contractor. They will need to know what you are disposing of, and may advise you on how you should store it and how they will collect it.

The waste transfer agreement will provide you with waste transfer notes to prove you have acted legally for Council inspection. If however the Council find that your agreement is not adequate to cover your needs they will ask you to amend it. You must keep a copy of all documentation (trade waste agreements or waste transfer notes) for two years and may be required to produce appropriate documents by an authorised council officer. Failure to produce documentation to the officer can result in a fixed penalty or prosecution.

You can also take your waste/recyclable to properly licenced waste sites. You must be able to evidence which sites you have used, when and what you have taken.


Your business association (local or national) should be able to provide advice to you. But here are some other sources of advice: