Dealing with hazardous waste

What is hazardous waste?


Waste is defined as hazardous if it is classified as hazardous in the European Waste Catalogue (or List of Wastes). Generally waste is hazardous if it, or the materials or substances it contains, are harmful to human health or the environment.

Find out how to classify different types of waste.

Examples of hazardous waste

Almost all businesses will produce some hazardous waste. Typical examples include waste:

  • asbestos
  • chemicals, eg brake fluid and printer toner
  • electrical equipment with potentially harmful components such as cathode ray tubes, eg computer monitors and televisions
  • fluorescent light tubes and energy-saving light bulbs
  • vehicle and other lead-acid batteries
  • oils (except edible oils), eg engine oil
  • refrigerators containing ozone-depleting substances
  • solvents, eg aerosols
  • pesticides

Check if your waste is hazardous

Hazardous waste is defined by the European Waste Catalogue (EWC). The EWC has a six-digit code for all types of waste. Hazardous waste is identified in the EWC with an asterisk.

The EWC contains two kinds of hazardous waste entry:

  • 'Absolute' entries are always hazardous. Examples include waste from the manufacture of specified acids, inorganic wood preservatives, and nickel cadmium batteries.
  • 'Mirror' entries are only considered hazardous if they contain a certain hazardous component, or more than a specified amount of a hazardous substance. Examples include some wastes containing arsenic or mercury or displaying hazardous properties such as flammability.

Many non-hazardous waste entries may also form part of a mirror entry. If this is the case you need to consider whether your waste contains hazardous components before you use a non-hazardous waste code.

Find out how to assess whether your waste is hazardous or non-hazardous.

Check your safety data sheets

If you receive materials or chemicals at your site, they should be accompanied by a safety data sheet. The information on the safety data sheet can help you decide if your waste is hazardous, provided the chemicals have not changed due to being used or mixed with other substances.

If you are unsure whether your waste is hazardous, you should contact the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) or a specialist waste management contractor.