Collection of waste and containers for waste

Summary of the law

  • Who collects domestic waste?
  • Can they make a charge?
  • When should household waste be put out for collection?
  • In what should it be kept?
  • How should commercial or industrial waste be stored?
  • Is there a charge for collecting commercial or industrial waste?

The answers to these questions are contained in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 Part 11 'Waste on Land' Sections 45 - 47. The legislation sets out local authorities' powers and responsibilities in relation to the collecting of household and commercial waste. These sections also say what the law is on receptacles for such waste.

Collection of waste

Waste collection authorities, i.e. the local authority, shall:

a) arrange for the collection of household waste in it's area at no charge
b) arrange for the collection of waste from any commercial premises in it's area, if requested by the occupier of the premises at a reasonable charge.

Receptacles for household waste

Waste collection authorities shall specify collection arrangements for household waste and the type of receptacle to be used.

A person who (without reasonable excuse) does not comply shall not be liable to conviction in the Sheriff court, where the maximum fine would be £1000 (level 3 on the standard scale). Reasonable instructions may be given as to when receptacles must be returned to the premises. Alternatively, a receptacle left on a highway or road may be treated as an unlawful obstruction.

Receptacles for commercial or industrial waste

A waste collection authority may supply receptacles for commercial or industrial waste and make a reasonable charge. If it appears to a waste collection authority that there is likely to be a nuisance or detriment to the amenity of the locality because of the way waste is stored at commercial or industrial premises, the authority may serve a notice requiring the occupier to provide receptacles.

Non-compliance (without reasonable excuse) is an offence.
A person convicted could be fined up to £1000 in the sheriff court (level 3 on the standard scale).

An introduction to the waste management duty of care

Environmental Protection Act 1990 Part II (Waste on Land) Section 34 and the Waste Management Duty of Care Code of Practice


What the Duty of Care says:

Each person handling waste, in whatever capacity, has legal responsibilities:

  • To prevent the escape of any waste
  • When transferring the waste, to make sure that:
    • it is only transferred to a person authorised to dispose of such waste or a person authorised to transport it;
    • a written description (a 'transfer note') is included, sufficient to enable the recipient to avoid committing an offence.
  • To prevent any other persons committing the offences of disposing, treating or sorting waste without a waste management licence or in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm to health.

What is 'waste'?

It can be anything you own, or your business produces, that you want to get rid of. This includes materials destined for further use.

Exemption for householders

The duty of care does not apply to your household waste from your own property.

What the duty of care law means to YOU

  • All reasonable steps must be taken to keep waste safe. It must be bagged and contained without spilling or exposure to wind and rain. It must be securely stored in corrosion proof containers, must not leak and must be safe from theft, vandals, animals or scavengers.
  • If you give waste to someone you must be sure they are authorised to take it.
  • Breach of the duty of care is a criminal offence. Each offence is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 in a Sheriff court or unlimited fine if indicted to the High Court.

Use only authorised waste containers

Council Waste Collectors
You don't have to check on them, but you may have to complete some paper work for non-household waste.

Registered Waste Carriers
They must be registered with the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Exempt Waste Carriers
Charities and voluntary organisations may be exempt but must be registered with the environment agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Check with the agencies if in doubt.

Holders of waste management licences
Some licences are valid for only certain kinds of waste or activities. Check that the licence covers your kind of waste.

Registered waste brokers
Anyone who arranges the recycling or disposal of waste, on behalf of someone else, must be registered as a waste broker with the Environment Agency or Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Getting Waste Removed
Contact your local authority or the Environmental Services Association can give you the names and address of local waste carriers Tel. 0171 824 8882. Or consult a local trade directory.
The Environment Agency have public registers available for examination upon request.

If you suspect someone is breaking the law:
Do not give waste to them. Advise South Ayrshire Council.

Further reading:

  • 'Waste Management The Duty of Care Code of Practice' from the Stationary Office ISBN 0 11 753210 X. Tel. 0171 873 9090
  • 'Waste and your Duty of Care' is a free leaflet from Department of the Environment, Publications Despatch Centre, Blackhorse Road, London SE99 6TT. Tel. 0181 691 9191