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Whether you are a small business or a national corporation, you have a legal obligation to comply with duty of care regulations. This means that you are fully responsible for disposing of your waste in the correct way.  

Even if you think that your waste is hardly worth worrying about, it all adds up. And, given the number of small businesses there are, it is important that everyone does their bit to protect our environment. You can help by ensuring that you set a good example for businesses around you and understanding exactly what your duty of care is.

Estimates suggest that 90% of the organisations breaking the law are small businesses who simply don’t know how to fulfil their duty of care. Unfortunately, not knowing the law is not an excuse for failing to comply so now is the time to educate yourself and find out exactly what you should be doing.

What is My Duty of Care?

Your duty of care is outlined in detail in Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The basics you need to know are:

  1. Anyone who produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of waste must ensure that the waste is properly processed in accordance to the law
  2. You must ensure that if you transfer the waste to another person that they are authorized to take the waste from you and that their vehicle is authorized too

If you fail to comply with these rules, your business could be presented with an uncapped fine and you may be held personally liable too. This means that you could also be fined and in some extreme cases prison sentences have been imposed.

Who Does the Duty of Care Apply To?

The waste duty of care can be applied to any waste holder. This includes:

  • Waste producer
  • Waste carrier
  • Waste dealer
  • Waste broker
  • Waste manager

It can also be applied to householders. However, in the majority of circumstances, a householder’s waste is taken care of by the local council. Essentially, this means that if you have an old washing machine to get rid of, you will call the council for a collection rather than dump in down a quiet lane.

It is important to know who the duty of care applies to because it is your responsibility to ensure that the waste is properly managed throughout the entire chain. This means that if you produce waste, you need to be sure that the waste carrier who takes the waste away and the waste manager who disposes of the waste are also complying with their duty of care.


Let’s say you have a factory that produces waste paper mill sludge. You need to dispose of the paper mill sludge safely and in accordance with your duty of care. You are the waste producer.

You call a waste dealer who wants to buy your paper mill sludge and sell it for landspreading. They agree to buy from you and you arrange for a waste broker to send someone to collect the waste.

A waste carrier arrives and loads the paper mill sludge onto their truck.

The waste carrier then takes the waste directly to a farmer who wants to spread the paper mill sludge on his land. The farmer becomes a waste manager as he spreads the paper mill sludge on his land, thus disposing of the waste.

In this scenario, you need to ensure that everyone in the chain is handling the waste properly in accordance with their duty of care. Even though the waste dealer never actually sees the paper mill sludge, they too have a duty of care going down the line to the farmer.   

Why is the Duty of Care Important?

Aside from avoiding fines, complying with your duty of care is important for protecting the environment as well as more energy efficient. Plus, if you have a waste product that could be recycled or reused by someone else, you could make a small profit on it by complying with your duty of care.

As in the example above, the paper mill complied fully with their duty of care and in doing so, they benefited from a small profit and the farmer benefitted from the waste which he used on his land. The environment also benefited because the waste was used to improve the land fertility rather than dumped in landfill or burned for energy reclamation.

The more everyone can do to make sure that their duty of care is complied with along the chain and that the best practises are always followed, the better our environment will be and the more everyone will benefit.

Right Waste, Right Place

As so many people are unaware of what their duty of care is, and 50% of SMEs do not understand what their responsibilities are, the Right Waste, Right Place campaign has been set up to deal with some of the misunderstandings.

Dealing with your waste properly and efficiently doesn’t have to cost you any more. In fact, disposing of your waste correctly is likely to be much cheaper for your business as well as the environment.

Right Waste, Right Place is a great website for all kinds of sources explaining the duty of care in more depth and answering specific queries, but you can also contact us at Waste Sure and we will be more than happy to help you with your own needs.

How Can Waste Sure Help?

We have plenty of experience in ensuring that large and small companies follow their duty of care to the letter and can offer a variety of smart ways to dispose of your waste in the best possible way. We will look for areas where your waste could be reused or recycled for a fraction of the cost of landfill and can also advise on the best way of dealing with any hazardous waste you may have.

Our priority is giving you the chance to comply with your duty of care by taking all the management issues on for you. We will ensure that your duty of care is carried down the chain and that you will never be at risk of failing to comply.

When you book your skip with WasteSURE, there’s no need to worry.

Hannah Field

Author Hannah Field

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