Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Operating your landfill site

Landfill sites and the waste sent to them are tightly regulated by environmental legislation. This sets out the standards that operators must meet to prevent pollution, for example to stop chemicals (leachate) leaking into surrounding land or water. You must ensure that certain wastes are not sent to landfill and that specific criteria and procedures are met before waste is landfilled.

You must have a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit to operate a landfill site. This will control your environmental impact through conditions that you must comply with.

This guide provides information on waste that cannot be landfilled and how waste is accepted at landfills, including waste acceptance criteria and procedures. It also covers key issues relating to PPC permits, dealing with problematic waste streams, how the Landfill Tax affects landfill operators and designing and monitoring landfill facilities.

Additional resources

Before you start operating a landfill site, you must have a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit from either:

  • the Northern Ireland Environment Agency
  • the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Your PPC permit will specify standards you must achieve to reduce or prevent pollution. It will identify requirements for the site's design, construction, operation and aftercare.

Applying for a permit

You need to fill in an application form if you want to:

  • apply for a new permit
  • vary (change), transfer or surrender your permit

NIEA: Guidance and Application forms for PPC permits

SEPA: Guidance and application forms for PPC permits

Many landfill sites no longer accept waste but you may still hold a PPC permit or waste management licence that you must comply with to prevent pollution. See the page in this guideline: Closed landfill sites

Cost of a PPC permit

You have to pay a charge with your application.

DAERA: Regulatory fees and charges, PPC (IE) permits

SEPA: PPC permit fees and charges (PDF, 181K)

There are certain types of waste that you cannot accept at your landfill. These include:

  • any waste in liquid form, including waste waters but excluding sludge
  • waste which in a landfill would be explosive, corrosive, oxidising, flammable or highly flammable
  • hospital and other clinical wastes from medical or veterinary establishments, which are infectious
  • chemical substances from research and development or teaching activities, such as laboratory residues, which are not identified or which are new and whose effects on people and the environment are not known
  • whole used tyres - apart from tyres used as engineering material, bicycle tyres and tyres with an outside diameter of more than 1,400 millimetres
  • shredded used tyres - apart from bicycle tyres and tyres with an outside diameter above 1,400 millimetres
  • waste that might cause a problem in the landfill, eg hot or chemically active waste
  • any waste that does not meet the waste acceptance criteria for that class of landfill - see the page in this guideline: Waste acceptance at landfills

In Scotland, from 01 January 2014, separately collected dry recyclables are banned from landfill.

Further information can be found on the Scottish Government website:

Scottish Government: Duty of Care – A Code of Practice

In Northern Ireland the NIEA has produced guidance:

NIEA Regulatory Position Statement – Separate Collection of Dry Recyclables

Further information

SEPA: Landfill guidance

NIEA: See the Landfill (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004

NIEA: Refer to the Environment Agency guidance on Waste Acceptance at Landfill

Before you can accept waste at your landfill site, you must confirm that the waste:

To confirm this, you need to see evidence of the waste's basic characterisation. This will be included as a waste description provided with the carrier's duty of care waste transfer or consignment note. You may also need to carry out compliance testing and on-site verification as defined in the annex to European Community (EC) Decision 2003/33/EC. This will help you to ensure that the waste has been brought to the right class of landfill site and enable you to manage it correctly.

Waste acceptance criteria

There are different WAC for inert, non-hazardous and hazardous waste.

Landfills for inert waste may only accept inert wastes that meet the relevant WAC. You may be able to accept some inert waste types without testing at landfills for inert waste - these are listed in section 2.1.1 of Decision 2003/33/EC. To be accepted without testing, the wastes must be of a single type from a single source. Listed wastes of different types may be accepted together providing they are from the same source.

If you suspect that a waste listed in section 2.1.1 is contaminated, or you want to accept waste that is not on the list, you must test the waste first to confirm that it is not hazardous. If it is not, you must confirm that the waste meets the leaching limit values for inert waste in section 2.1.2 of Decision 2003/33/EC.

Landfills for non-hazardous waste may accept:

  • municipal waste
  • other non-hazardous wastes - including inert wastes - which fulfil the relevant WAC
  • stable, non-reactive hazardous wastes in certain circumstances - these must not be deposited in cells with biodegradable non-hazardous waste.

In Scotland, from 01 January 2014, separately collected dry recyclables are banned from landfill.

Further information can be found on the Scottish Government website:

Scottish Government: Duty of Care – A Code of Practice

WAC apply to non-hazardous waste but there are no numerical limits set for this, except where it is to be taken to a cell for stable, non-reactive hazardous waste. The control over waste acceptance is through the conditions set out in your PPC permit.

Non-hazardous household waste and the same non-hazardous waste from other sources can be accepted without testing.

Landfills for hazardous waste can only accept waste classified as hazardous.

SEPA: Guidance on the definition of Special Waste

NIEA Technical Guidance WM3: Waste Classification-Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste

To be acceptable at landfill, it must have been treated and meet the relevant WAC.

The WAC largely consists of numerical limits for leachable substances and organic content, along with standards for physical stability. For organic content, the parameters are:

  • dissolved organic carbon
  • total organic carbon (TOC)
  • loss on ignition (LOI).

You can use either LOI or TOC content to show compliance. The testing methods for both organic and inorganic substances are set out in section 2.4 of Decision 2003/33/EC.

Additional requirements on specific wastes

There are specific criteria for the following waste types and activities:

  • gypsum
  • asbestos
  • stable non-reactive hazardous waste that is disposed of in a landfill for non-hazardous waste
  • underground storage of wastes.

SEPA: Guidance on the disposal of gypsum in landfill

SEPA: Guidance on the disposal of asbestos in landfill

SEPA: Guidance on the disposal of stable non-reactive hazardous waste in landfill

NIEA: Guidance on the disposal of gypsum in landfill

NIEA: See Environment Agency guidance on Waste Acceptance at Landfills

You can find further information in Decision 2003/33/EC.

Further information

For further information on WAC:

Europa: EC Decision 2003/33/EC on WAC (PDF, 268K)

SEPA: Landfill guidance

NIEA: Landfill (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004 Schedule 1

Landfill engineering includes the design and construction of a landfill facility, as well as methods for checking the integrity of landfill facilities - for example, construction quality assurance.

GOV.UK guidance on landfill engineering

Monitoring landfill leachate, groundwater and surface water

Landfill leachate is a potentially polluting liquid, which may cause harmful effects to the soil, groundwater and surface water that surround a landfill site unless it is contained, managed and treated.

Your environmental permit will contain conditions that require you to put mechanisms in place to manage emissions from your site.

The reasons for monitoring leachate, groundwater and surface water at landfills are to:

  • demonstrate that the landfill is performing as designed
  • provide reassurance that leachate controls are preventing pollution of the environment (by reference to a pre-established baseline)
  • meet the control and monitoring requirements of legislation
  • demonstrate you comply with the groundwater control and trigger level requirements
  • indicate whether further investigation is required and, where the risks are unacceptable, the need for measures to prevent, reduce, or remove leachate pollution
  • identify when a site no longer presents a hazard to the environment or human health so that you can make an application to surrender the permit.

SEPA: Guidance on leachate, groundwater and surface water monitoring (PDF, 5.29MB)

NIEA: See GOV.UK Guidance on Landfill

Monitoring landfill gas

Landfill gas is a complex mixture that mainly contains methane and CO2. These gases are produced during the major part of the decomposition process. Many other gases are produced in trace amounts and the exact composition of the gas will vary between different landfill sites, parts of the same site, and over time. You must monitor and control landfill gas.

Correctly monitoring landfill gas is important for the advance warning of any underground migration of gas out of a landfill, which might indicate that the control measures have failed. Landfill gas must also be collected and burned to produce energy or flared - this reduces the impact of methane on climate change.

SEPA: Guidance on the management of landfill gas

NIEA: See GOV.UK guidance on Landfill

Landfill stability

If your landfill site will accept non-hazardous or hazardous waste, you will need to assess hydrogeological, stability and landfill gas risks when you apply for your PPC permit. If your site will accept inert waste, you will need to assess stability risks. See the page in this guideline: Pollution prevention and control permits for landfill sites.

Further information

SEPA: Designing and monitoring landfill sites – technical guidance

NIEA: See GOV.UK landfill engineering guidance

Landfill Tax is a tax on waste that is disposed of at any landfill site. This includes sites that hold an environmental permit or should have a permit. The tax encourages people to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill.

As the landfill site operator, you are responsible for paying Landfill Tax. However, you can normally pass the cost on to businesses and local authorities on top of normal landfill fees. VAT is charged on both the landfill fees and the Landfill Tax. The devolved Government in Scotland is now responsible for collection of the Scottish Landfill Tax (SLfT)

Rates and calculations

Landfill Tax is charged according to the weight of material deposited.

There are two rates of Landfill Tax; the lower rate only applies to wastes listed in the the appropriate legislation.

  • In Scotland this is the Landfill Tax (Qualifying Material) Order 2015
  • In Northern Ireland it is the Landfill Tax (Qualifying Material) Order 2011, as amended by the Landfill Tax (Qualifying Material) (Amendment) Order 2012

The higher rate applies to all other waste that is taxable for Landfill Tax purposes and is chargeable at the standard rate.

You can only apply the lower rate of tax if you can obtain and retain sufficient evidence. There is guidance you can refer to at:

HMRC: A general guide to landfill tax - for Northern Ireland

Revenue Scotland: A guide to the Scottish Landfill Tax

Rates of Landfill tax

In Northern Ireland

The lower rate is £2.60 per tonne.

The standard rate is £82.60 per tonne.

In Scotland, from 1 April 2015

The lower rate is £2.60 per tonne

The higher rate is £82.60 per tonne

Working out the weight of waste

If you have a weighbridge at your site, HMRC will expect you to use it to calculate the weight of the waste. Your weighbridge must comply with weights and measures regulations. If you need advice on managing your weighbridge, you should get in touch with your local Trading Standards office.

Trading Standards Institute: Find your local Trading Standards office

If your weighbridge has broken down or there are other reasons you can't use it - for example, waste would not usually pass near the weighbridge and rerouting it would be very costly - you can ask HMRC or Revenue Scotland if you can use an alternative method of calculation.

In Northern Ireland if you are in any doubt or would like further help you can ring the HMRC VAT and Excise Helpline on 0300 200 3700.

In Scotland:

Revenue Scotland: Contact

Handling mixed loads that contain both standard-rated and lower-rated waste

Under some circumstances, you may ignore a small amount of standard-rated waste mixed in with lower-rated waste, and treat the whole load as taxable at the lower rate. HMRC and Revenue Scotland can provide guidance on how to treat mixed loads.

HMRC: A general guide to landfill tax

Revenue Scotland: A guide to the Scottish Landfill Tax

Registering with HMRC or Revenue Scotland

In Northern Ireland

You must register with HMRC in order to charge Landfill Tax for the waste disposed of at your site.

In Scotland

You must register with Revenue Scotland in order to chargs Scottish Landfill Tax for the waste disposed of at your site.

Recycling, sorting and incineration

You may be able to apply for part of your site to be designated as tax-free if you recycle, sort or incinerate waste. However, you should contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) before making any changes to your site, as you may need to change the conditions of your pollution prevention and control permit first.

Contact your environmental regulator

Landfill Communities Fund and the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund (SLCF)

If you make contributions to environmental bodies for projects that have environmental benefits, you may be able to claim tax credit as part of the Landfill Communities Fund scheme or the SLCF.

ENTRUST: Landfill Communities Fund - for Northern Ireland

Scottish Landfill Tax Funds - for Scotland

Further information

In Northern Ireland

HMRC: A general guide to landfill tax

HMRC: Landfill tax forms

In Scotland

Revenue Scotland: Guidance

Revenue Scotland: Forms

Closed landfill sites fall into three categories - those that:

  • closed after 16 July 2001
  • closed before 16 July 2001 and have a PPC permit/Waste Management Licence
  • no longer have a permit.

Landfill sites that closed after 16 July 2001

These sites are known as 'Landfill Directive closed landfills'. Operators are subject to the requirements of landfill legislation. You must provide closure plans to show how you intend to close and manage the site in the aftercare phase.

In Northern Ireland these sites are regulated under a Waste Management Licence.

Regulated sites closed before 16 July 2001

These sites are known as 'closed landfills'. You will be regulated by a range of conditions that were originally imposed through waste management or waste disposal licences.

In Northern Ireland these sites are regulated under a Waste Management Licence or a Compliance Notice.

Sites that no longer have a permit

These sites are known as 'historic closed landfills'. Your environmental regulator does not regulate these sites. However, they maintain an interest in them because of their potential to release greenhouse gases.

Surrendering a permit

You must continue to manage sites to prevent pollutants being released during the aftercare phase.

SEPA: Surrendering an authorisation

SEPA: Guidance on closure procedures for landfill sites operating under a Waste Management Licence (PDF, 64K)

SEPA: Closure, restoration and aftercare plan for submission to SEPA

NIEA :Form for surrendering a PPC permit

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

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