>Definition of waste

Waste is defined in a Defra Guidance Document. A General Guide for Businesses has recently been revised.

Determining whether something should be classed as waste is relatively straightforward. The Waste Framework Directive defines waste as 'any substance or object...which the producer or the person in possession of it discards or intends or is required to discard'.

If, therefore, the intention is for continued use and the item is capable of continued use, there is no reason why it should be classed as waste. For example, toner cartridges that are sent back for refilling and further use do not need to be classed as waste.

Similarly, if a by-product of a production process can be used in another process as a raw material without any modification, there is also no need for it to be classed as waste. This is explained in the documents above.

Once a material has become waste, however, the process to determine iit as non-waste is more complex and requires three basic tests to be met as defined on GOV.UK 

  • the waste has been converted into a distinct and marketable product, this means:
    • the waste has been turned into a completely new product, for example a playground surface is produced from waste tyres
    • the new product is different from the original waste (minor changes to its composition may not be sufficient), for example non packaging plastic recycled material is processed to make new plastic products
    • there is a genuine market for the material so it will definitely be used – if its stored indefinitely with little prospect for use the material remains waste
  • the processed substance can be used in exactly the same way as a non-waste
  • the processed substance can be stored and used with no worse environmental effects when compared to the material it is intended to replace

Waste producers can apply the rules to make their own decision, but this can be challenged by the Environment Agency where they believe the product does not meet their criteria. The EA's End of Waste Panel has reopened iand the EA has now set up a Resource Framework process (Jan 2022) where applications can be made for end of waste approval. However, be warned, the EA advises that the process can

  • take a minimum of 12 to 18 months
  • cost you more than £40,000, as these are the likely total fees for the Environment Agency’s work

A list of agreed End of Waste Protocols has been published here.

The UK also transposed the EU Regulations for enabling iron, steel and aluminum as well as copper and glass to be classed as end of waste. Conforming with these requirements enables the operator to then be classed as a reprocessor for packaging regulations accreditation purposes.

For construction waste, a Code of Practice has been developed to determine what is waste, backed up with an EA Position Statement.

Further information

GOV.UK Definition of waste

EA Definition of waste service

Safety Kleen vs EA ruling