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Legal responsibilities for commercial waste

If you operate a business, you are responsible, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and other related legislation, to safely contain and legally dispose of all waste produced from your business. This is known as your commercial waste duty of care.

Commercial waste includes all waste created from a commercial premises. This includes:

  • recyclables including cardboard, plastic and paper
  • post
  • packaging
  • general waste
  • cleaning materials including floor sweepings
  • food and drinks waste and packaging
  • smoking litter
  • damaged and scrapped furniture or equipment
  • used oils
  • any other waste created by the business

The law applies to all businesses, including anyone working from home such as child minding, nurseries and offices. It is an offence to dispose of commercial waste in domestic bins, at a household waste recycling centre or in any other way not in accordance with the Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice.

As part of the Duty of Care, you can either dispose of your commercial waste yourself or arrange for someone to do this for you. Whichever option you choose you will need to prove you have disposed of your commercial waste legally.

Legally disposing of your commercial waste

You must be able to provide documents called ‘Duty of care waste transfer notes’ or receipts showing:

  • where your waste was disposed
  • how much it weighed
  • the date it was tipped
  • what type of waste was tipped

Private waste disposal contractors

You can arrange for someone else to dispose of your commercial waste but you should:

You will be committing offences and can be prosecuted if you give your waste to anyone not licensed to carry and dispose of controlled waste.

If you don't legally dispose of your commercial waste, a fixed penalty notice will be issued or the matter could be taken to court.

Penalty charges for illegally disposing of commercial waste  

Type of offence Penalty
Duty of Care
£300 fixed penalty notice or prosecution with a £5000 fine
Illegally deposited commercial waste 
£400 fixed penalty notice or prosecution with an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment
Failure to comply with a waste receptacles notice
£110 fixed penalty notice or prosecution with a maximum fine £1000

We offer a competitively priced commercial waste service for schools and businesses. For more information visit our rubbish and recycling for schools and businesses page.

For further guidance on your Duty of Care, refer to Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice.