Hazardous waste – a UK compliance overview

The FRP sector, like many others, has been significantly affected by environmental and waste legislation in the last few years. (Picture © Shutterstock.com).
The FRP sector, like many others, has been significantly affected by environmental and waste legislation in the last few years. (Picture © Shutterstock.com).
It is important to document procedures for the storage and segregation of your waste. (Picture © Shutterstock.com.)
It is important to document procedures for the storage and segregation of your waste. (Picture © Shutterstock.com.)

The fibre reinforced plastics (FRP) sector, like many others, has been significantly affected by environmental and waste legislation in the last few years. One could be forgiven for believing that this legislation is something of a new phenomenon. However, in reality, what has been experienced recently is the result of European Union (EU) legislative directives that date back to the early 1990s.

For example, the Hazardous Waste Directive (Council directive 91/689/EC) (HWD) and the European Waste Catalogue 1994 (Council decision 94/3/EC) (EWC) laid some of the foundations for EU waste legislation. All EU member states were required to interpret these directives and to create a legislative and regulatory framework at a local level. However, the process of interpretation, adoption and implementation has varied from country to country with many, including the UK, missing important deadlines.

Waste legislation has therefore been implemented within member states in different ways and at different times based upon the legal interpretation of the directives while, at the same time, accounting for the different existing infrastructures available within each state.

In the UK this goes one step further, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales adopting their own legislation via their devolved parliaments, although the latter generally adopts English statutory instruments.

The most relevant legislation relating to hazardous waste in the UK is listed below, although not all devolved regions have adopted it in full:

  • The Landfill Regulations 2002;
  • The Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005;
  • The List of Wastes Regulations (European Waste Catalogue);
  • The Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC);
  • The Waste Management Regulations 2006;
  • The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006.

Hazardous waste regulations 2005

The hazardous waste regulations came into force in England and Wales on 16 July 2005 and replaced the special waste regulations. At the same time, the list of waste regulations was adopted. Together, the two statutory instruments broadened the classification of what is ‘hazardous’ and required producers and waste service operators ('consignees’) to be more visible and more accountable for hazardous waste.

Producers were, for the first time, required to ‘notify’ the Environment Agency (EA) that their premises did or might produce hazardous wastes. The regulations also required consignees to report to the EA the details of all the waste deposited with them.

With the waste movement and the consignee report data containing a unique identification number specifically related to the premises at which the waste was produced, theoretically the EA would, for the first time, be able to produce accurate data as to the origins, volumes and disposal or recovery methods of hazardous waste within England and Wales.

With additional administration burdens now firmly in the hands of waste producers and the requirement for more technical data to be included on consignment notes, the compliance issues for many businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) became significantly greater.

At the same time the regulations reaffirmed that the EA has a duty to periodically inspect producers of waste, a process made much easier for them due to premises notification.

Additionally, a new regulation was introduced giving the EA the option to implement fixed penalty fines for minor regulatory offences to help significantly reduce the time spent on protracted formal prosecutions. Although the EA is yet to implement this regulation, pressure will surely come for it to be adopted on purely financial grounds.

Storage and segregation – best practice guidance

Storage and segregation of waste materials can often be overlooked, but it is a vital part of a compliance strategy. Many prosecutions come about as a result of poor storage that leads to an environmental incident, most commonly leakage.

Although the hazardous waste and duty of care regulations cover responsibilities related to storage, there is no specific legislation. However, there is best practice guidance, in particular, the recommended methodologies outlined in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document Chemical Warehousing – The Storage of Packaged Dangerous Substances (HSG71).

There are six key compliance areas relevant to the storage of waste chemicals.

Location and contents of storage area

Storage areas should be located away from a watercourse and any foul or surface water drains. It is also advisable to store waste away from a site perimeter, away from public rights of way and public buildings. Where large volumes of waste are being stored, there should be a site storage plan in place outlining layout, locations and segregation.

Infrastructure of storage area

The infrastructure of a storage area will depend on the type and volumes of waste to be stored, but containment is the one common element to them all. Correct storage areas should be regarded as secondary containment, the primary being the container itself.

The simplest method of creating a storage area is by creating a concrete bund wall within which waste is stored. However, there are now many portable or semi-portable storage systems on the market that allow for total containment and an element of segregation. These range from storage cabinets found on many laboratories to huge container type cabinets for storing many 200 litre drums.

Condition of containers to be stored

The container in which the waste is stored is the primary containment. Anything of a card-board or fibreboard construction should not be stored in an area that is open to the elements as containment will be compromised. Common steel and plastic containers can be stored outside giving consideration to the infrastructure issues. Additionally, these containers should be fit for purpose and appropriate for the waste being stored in them.

Stock rotation

Stock rotation is vital in any business and the same applies for the storage of waste. Accumulating waste at the back of the storage area and only consigning waste that is easy to get to will inevitably lead to problems. Sensible storage will ensure that the first waste in is the first waste out. This will significantly reduce the risks of containment failure and spillage.

Procedures for storage and segregation

Like many processes within an organisation, it is important to document procedures for the storage and segregation of your waste. This could be in the form of a formal standard operating procedure (SOP), as part of your ISO 9001 quality structure, as a stand alone management system or as part of an employee training matrix.

Procedures for spillage response

If a sizable spillage occurs, procedures should already be in place to provide adequate remedial action, including the correct absorbent materials, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for operatives and technical expertise readily available.

Chemical segregation – the principles of HSG71

HSG71 is the HSE's guide to the segregation and storage of packaged dangerous substances which includes hazardous chemicals and wastes.

The HSE has the power to issue improvement and prohibition notices on companies that fail to comply. Therefore, companies storing hazardous materials or wastes should make themselves aware of the guidance within the HGS71 document and the legal requirements that it helps to support.

HSG71 covers a broad range of subjects relating to the safe storage of dangerous substances including classification, risk and hazard management, containment, spillage and fire precaution.

Hazard segregation

Dangerous substances are grouped into a number of classes known as UN classes. They are:

  • Class 1 – Explosives;
  • Class 2 – Gases;
  • Class 3 – Flammable Liquids;
  • Class 4 – Flammable Solids;
  • Class 5 – Oxidising Substances and Organic Peroxides;
  • Class 6 – Toxic and Infectious;
  • Class 7 – Radioactive Substances;
  • Class 8 – Corrosive Substances.

The segregation guidance set out in HSG71 ensures that incompatible hazards are kept apart, segregated from each other, or isolated from one and other. The reasons for this are two fold.

Firstly, to ensure that any failure of primary containment or a storage system prevents the mixing of incompatible materials which could in itself create a much more serious incident for example explosion, fire or toxic gas release. Secondly, to ensure that during an incident of fire, segregation prevents additional reactions that worsen an already serious incident.

Transport and packaging

For many producers of hazardous waste, transport legislation is way down the priority list because someone else handles this process for them. However, there are some important compliance issues to consider.

Firstly, there is a duty of care to ensure that those who carry waste on your behalf are licensed to do so and are competent and carry out the process within the law. Secondly, although you may not actually transport your waste, you must make sure that your waste is suitably prepared for transport. Finally, you are still affected by the Chemicals (Hazard Information for Packaging & Supply) Regulations (CHIP) in the way you label and package your waste.


If you transport your own waste you will need a waste carrier's licence from one of the environmental agencies. In addition, you will require your drivers to be ADR trained and certified and the services of a dangerous goods safety adviser (DGSA). This could be an employee or consultant that offers DGSA services.

However, it is more likely that as a producer of waste you will subcontract transport services to a carrier or to your waste disposal service provider. In this case you need to ensure that the company you use has ADR certified drivers, the services of a DGSA, that their vehicles are fit for purpose and that waste is correctly packaged and labelled.

ADR is a European agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road. It covers a wide range of transport related subjects including, for example, material classifications and procedures for consignment. Included within ADR is the need for vehicles carrying dangerous goods to have emergency equipment on board such as fire extinguishers and spill kits. Vehicles must also carry Tremcards which contain data specific to each hazardous material being carried on the vehicle and which are designed to assist the emergency services in the event of an accident.

Packaging (CHIP3)

CHIP or the Chemicals (Hazard Information & Packaging for Supply) Regulations is legislation that affects companies that supply chemicals or other hazardous substances.

The legislation requires those that sell, import, transfer or supply samples of chemicals to provide data in a standardised form outlining, for example, the hazards, handling requirements and safety guidelines to those receiving the chemical, in order that they are fully aware of the associated risks. This is most commonly done in the form of a material safety data sheet (MSDS).

The environmental agencies and the HSE regard CHIP as relevant to the consignment of waste as it is a transfer of a hazardous substance. Therefore, compliance with the regulation and guidance for CHIP needs to be adopted by those companies producing waste.

Complacent or compliant?

Compliance schemes that provide solutions for producers of packaging materials are well established. Similarly, waste electrical and electronic equipment schemes have been available well in advance of the need for producers to join up.

In this environment, those organisations that are captured by the respective regulations can rest a little easier knowing that for a fixed fee and by following a few simple procedures, their compliance with the legislation is all but taken care of. However, the hazardous waste sector is very different.

With the enactment of the Hazardous Waste Regulations, many believed that processes such as ‘premises notification’ and ‘consignee returns’ would create an environment of visibility, which in turn would stimulate within those organisations that produce waste a new level of interest and responsibility related to their own compliance challenges and producer obligations.

Although the hazardous waste sector is widely regarded as one with a mature infrastructure and one that is generally able to cope with major regulatory changes, the sector does not have the benefit of a compliance regime to assist those producers who do not fully understand their responsibilities. With the absence of a structured regime, quite naturally much of the burden falls upon the waste sector itself.

Whilst waste service providers may be happy to increase revenues by producing consignment documentation for their clients, they cannot and indeed should not assume responsibility for their clients’ compliance. As has already been covered, it is not only the hazardous waste regulations that are relevant to producers.

Therefore, producers of hazardous waste must realise that they cannot just assume their compliance is taken care of by the making of a payment to a third party in return for administrative services. Any abdication of their responsibilities in this respect can only be harmful to their organisation. Their Duty of Care remains their burden and one which cannot be passed to any service provider without significant risk of non-compliance, regardless of how good that provider is.

Does this mean that producers should self-regulate? The simple answer is yes and producers should also understand that this is no different from any other forms of self-regulation, whether related to a manufacturing process or the delivery of services. Many business activities incorporate self-regulation in the form of control and review procedures. The process of storing, handling and consigning hazardous waste is no different and no less important than any other business process. Ownership and management of their waste activity is the only way to ensure their compliance with the hazardous waste and duty of care regulations.

Complex criteria

Manufacturers and fabricators in the FRP industry will almost certainly handle hazardous substances and produce hazardous waste. Many will, of course, already be familiar with their compliance requirements and will have resources in place to manage them. However, even within the most prepared organisations, issues can be overlooked.

With hazardous waste, companies need to be aware of compliance criteria outside the normal regulatory frameworks provided by waste legislation. It may be confusing, time consuming and fairly expensive but, at the same time, it is also very necessary.

There can be no room for complacency. The risks are simply too great.