Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Duty of care - Your waste responsibilities

All businesses produce waste and most types of business waste are classed as controlled waste. Controlled waste includes commercial, industrial and household waste.

You have a legal responsibility to ensure that you produce, store, transport and dispose of controlled waste without harming the environment. This is called your duty of care.

This guide explains what you must do to comply with your duty of care for waste. It describes how to segregate and store your waste safely, who can deal with your waste, and the records you must keep.

Waste is hard to define, but is generally anything that you discard, intend to discard or are required to discard. This covers more than just objects and substances you have decided to dispose of. Material being recovered, eg sent for recycling or prepared for reuse, is also waste. Read our guidance on 'What is Waste to find out more >>>

As a business, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that you produce, store, transport and dispose of your business waste without harming the environment. This is called your duty of care.

Read our guidance on 'What is the duty of care for waste' to find out more >>>

Read about the new waste duties for business in Scotland here:

New waste duties for businesses in Scotland >>>

You must ensure that anyone who handles your waste has the correct permit, registration or exemption.

Read our guidance on 'Who can deal with your waste?' here >>>

If you transport your own waste or other businesses’ waste, you must make sure that the site you take the waste to is authorised to accept it. You must make sure it has the necessary licence or registered exemption and that it is authorised to receive your particular waste types. Take a copy of the permit and keep it for your records. You should repeat these checks regularly, as registrations and authorisations can change, expire or be revoked.

It is good practice to do this even if a registered carrier transports your waste for you. Checking that your waste is going to be taken to an authorised site is a good way to show that you have taken reasonable steps to prevent your waste from being handled or disposed of illegally.

You could also carry out site visits and undertake audits to help you to ensure that your waste is handled correctly from when it leaves your premises to the final point of recovery or disposal. See the page in this guideline on who can deal with your waste?

If you make arrangements with more than one business to deal with your waste, you must make sure each has the correct authorisation. For example, if you have separate contracts with a waste carrier and a waste processor, you must check the carrier is registered and the waste processor has the necessary licence or exemption to accept your waste.

Further information

Find your nearest waste site

NetRegs: Duty of Care for waste (Scotland) leaflet (PDF - 997KB)

A waste transfer note (WTN) is a document that details the transfer of waste from one person to another. You must ensure every load of waste you receive or pass to others is covered by a WTN. The only exception is when you receive household waste directly from the householder who produced it, but you will need a WTN when you pass that waste to someone else.

WTNs ensure that there is a clear audit trail from when the waste is produced until it is disposed of. You must keep copies of all your WTNs for at least two years and must be able to produce them on demand to your environmental regulator or local council, or you could be fined.

You must check that anyone you pass your waste to holds the relevant registration, permit or exemption for the type of waste you pass to them. See the page in this guideline on who can deal with your waste?

There is no standard WTN and many waste carriers produce their own versions.

You can now make use of the national e-doc (electronic duty of care) scheme which is a free, online alternative to paper based waste transfer notes.

e-doc: Electronic Duty of Care

SEPA: Example of a WTN (PDF, 65K)

NIEA: Example of a WTN

Read more about Waste Transfer notes and how to complete them here >>


The European Waste Catalogue (EWC) List of Wastes is a standardised way of describing waste.

Read our guidance on the 'European Waste Catalogue - waste codes' here >>>

All waste has the potential to pollute the environment if you do not handle or store it properly.

Read our guidance on 'Waste storage' here >>>

There are specific legal requirements you must comply with if you are recovering or disposing of certain materials.

Read our guidance on 'Controls on specific types of waste' here >>>

This page provides links to the full text of key pieces of environmental legislation relating to your duty of care for your business waste. The websites hosting the legislation may list amendments separately.

If you are setting up an environmental management system (EMS) for your business, you can use this list to start compiling your legal register. Your legal adviser or environmental consultant will be able to tell you if other environmental legislation applies to your specific business.

Environmental management systems and environmental reports


Northern Ireland Duty of Care legislation

Controlled Waste Duty of Care (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 SR 117. Amends the Controlled Waste and Duty of Care Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 in that they provide clarification in relation to the classification of a number of items contained in the tables to the schedule, including the sources of household, industrial and commercial waste and the nature of waste and activities producing waste.

Controlled Waste and Duty of Care Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 SR 255. Revoke and replace the Controlled Waste Regulations (NI) 2002. Clarifies classification of wastes as ‘household’, ‘commercial’, or ‘industrial’; identifies which of these wastes incur a charge for collection and disposal. Introduce more stringent controls under the waste Duty of Care system.

Controlled Waste (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2003/404. Amends SR 2002/248 to include animal by-products.

Controlled Waste (Duty of Care) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2002/271. Creates a duty of care for controlled waste that requires all producers, carriers and managers of waste to keep records and use waste transfer notes.

Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 1999/362. Describes the system for registering carriers of controlled waste and for seizing vehicles used for the illegal disposal of waste.

Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 SR14. Provide for the separate collection of food waste. They place a duty on food businesses producing in excess of 5kg of food waste per week to present food waste for separate collection and place a duty on businesses to ensure food waste is not deposited in a lateral drain or sewer. Place a duty on those who transport food waste to collect and transport such waste separately from other waste.

Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1997/2778. Sets out the waste management regime covering waste carrier registration and identifying and remedying contaminated land.


Scotland Duty of Care legislation

Environmental Protection Act 1990. Defines the legal framework for duty of care for waste, contaminated land and statutory nuisance.

The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) (Scotland) Regulations 2014 SSI 4

Requires a transfer note to be signed by the transferor and transferee of waste, specifies information to be included and requires copies to be kept for two years. Includes the use of SIC codes. Enables the use of electronic waste transfer notes. These regulations revoke the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991

Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 SSI 226.

Enables the partial suspension, revocation, transfer and surrender of site licences, and allows licences held by the same person to be consolidated if they cover the same site or more than one mobile plant.

Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011 SSI 228. Adds new exemptions. Consolidates the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 and amendments. Removes need for licence holders to have a certificate of technical competence. Requires businesses carrying their own waste to register as Professional Collectors and Transporters of Waste.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012. The regulations introduce a number of important new requirements including the segregation of materials such as glass, metal, plastics, paper and card for recycling. It also introduces the requirement for food businesses to present food waste for collection and a ban on sending segregated materials for incineration or to landfill. Waste contractors must provide services that enable high quality recycling.

The Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015 SSI 101

Requires the holder of a Waste Management Licence to comply with the Materials Recovery Code. Also a PPC permit for the running of a waste recovery facility must contain a requirement to comply with the Materials Recovery Code.


Further Information

Current and future legislation

Environmental management systems and environmental reports

Hazardous/special waste

Waste management licences

PPC permits

Contact your environmental regulator

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