Legal definition of waste

This guidance is aimed at businesses and other organisations which take decisions on a day-to-day basis about whether something is or is not waste.

In most cases, the decision is straightforward and whoever is taking the decision does not need guidance from the competent authorities to help them take it.

However, in some cases, the decision is more difficult (e.g. where the substance or object has a value or a potential use or where the decision is about whether waste has been fully recovered or recycled and has therefore ceased to be waste). The aim of the guidance is to help ensure that the right decision is taken in these more difficult cases.

The Department consulted on the draft at the start of 2010 but pledged to publish the full document soon after the publication of the EC guidance on the Waste Framework Directive to ensure that the definition of waste on the two documents was still fully aligned.

The guidance is divided in three parts:

  • Part 1explains the background to and the rationale for the draft guidance
  • Part 2 is a practical guide for businesses and other organisations
  • Part 3 provides detailed guidance on the case law on the definition of waste and is intended for those with a specialist interest in the issue.

This document was prepared in conjunction with the Welsh Government, the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland, the Environment Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The legal definition of waste guidance will help operators making the decision as to whether a material is waste or not, however it cannot cover all specific issues. 

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