Duty of care: code of practice for managing controlled waste

Statutory guidance on the duties that must be complied with by anyone who produces, keeps, imports or manages controlled waste in Scotland.

5 Your Obligations as a Waste Collector

This section offers guidance to any person who collects, carries or transports waste. This includes those who design and operate waste collection services such as waste collection contractors, local authorities and others.

You must comply with the duties in Section 34 whilst the waste is in your possession and when you transfer your waste to somebody else. Failure to comply with these duties may result in enforcement action being taken against you. In addition to the penalties under the 1990 Act, you could also lose your registration to carry waste.

What are my responsibilities?

As a waste collector, you must:
  • Apply the waste hierarchy as a priority order to all waste that you collect and ensure recycling services are designed and operated to promote 'high quality' recycling.
  • From 01 January 2014, collect and carry dry recyclable and food waste that has been presented to you separately by your customer.
  • Ensure recyclable materials are not mixed with other wastes in a manner which may hamper recycling whilst you are the holder.
  • Check that the transfer note is correctly completed and that it contains sufficient information to enable you to manage the waste properly and safely.
  • Be registered to carry waste with SEPA ( if you are required to be registered).
  • Ensure your waste is transferred to someone who is authorised to receive it.
  • Take reasonable measures to ensure that your waste does not cause pollution or harm to human health.

This means that, in the course of your activity as a waste collector and carrier, you must take the following steps:

Step 1a - Apply the waste hierarchy and collect the listed dry recyclable waste types separately

You must take all reasonable steps to apply the waste hierarchy as a priority order to the management of your waste and promote 'high quality' recycling. The Waste Hierarchy Guidance describes the order for a range of common waste streams and further advice on how to apply it. As the key service provider and the bridge between waste producers and the reprocessing sector, you have a crucial role. Recycling services must be designed and operated to yield waste of sufficient quality to support the priority 'high quality' outcomes.

To help waste producers comply with their duty, it is necessary for the waste industry, as a whole, to provide services which support the separate collection of dry recyclables and promote 'high quality' recycling. The best way to do this is to provide a fully segregated recycling service to your customers. From 01 January 2014, it is it is the duty of waste producers to take all reasonable steps to present at least the following key dry recyclables for separate collection;

  • metals;
  • glass;
  • plastics;
  • paper; and
  • card (including cardboard).

It is the duty of waste collectors to collect and transport these waste streams separately from other wastes.

A well operated recycling system should ensure a high capture rate with very little, if any, dry recyclables left in the residual stream.

When collecting mixed or residual waste, it may be apparent that the producer does not segregate dry recyclables for recycling or only does so very poorly. Such practice is not compliant with the duty and you should advise the producer of their duty and where to go for further support.

Mixed or residual waste collections may still be required but only where they are complementary to a separate recycling service as part of an overall waste management solution.

It should be noted that some sub-categories of these materials are not readily recyclable. For example, pyrex glass does not currently have a recycling outlet and therefore it is not expected that producers segregate it or collectors collect it separately from residual waste.

What must I do when collecting dry recyclables?

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 define separate collection as when;

"Waste is presented for collection, and collected, in a manner that ensures that-

(i) dry recyclable waste is kept separate from other waste;

(ii) waste from one dry waste stream is kept separate from waste in another such stream."

Therefore, separate collection means waste stream specific separation. That is to say, a separate container is required for each dry recyclable and the subsequent handling must be sufficient to maintain that separation through the management chain.

Kerbside sort systems, where the waste producer places the dry recyclables in the same container for subsequent sorting by the waste collector into different vehicle compartments at the point of collection are considered to be equivalent to separate collection.

Is full material separation always necessary?

Complete segregation of the key dry recyclables is the first option and should be prioritised when designing collection systems. In many cases it will be possible to fully segregate materials; for example, most office premises should be able to segregate waste paper, metal cans and plastic bottles for collection separately from each other.

However, the introduction of fully separate collection systems may not be practicable in all circumstances and full segregation may not be necessary provided the aim of high quality recycling can be achieved just as well with a form of co-mingling. Co-mingled collections are where some, or all, of the key dry recyclables are collected together in the same container (but still separate from mixed or general waste) and later sorted at a Materials Recycling Facility (" MRF").

In order to accommodate these cases, the Regulations provide derogation from the requirement for separate collection and co-mingling is acceptable under the following conditions:

  • the quantity and quality of waste recycled is not significantly less than that which would result from a separate collection.
  • The waste is not mixed with other waste that cannot be recycled.
  • The waste can meet any relevant quality standard.
  • The waste is managed in a manner that promotes high quality recycling.

If you offer a co-mingled collection to your customers, you must ensure that collection, transport and separation results in wastes which are of comparable quality to separately collected wastes and can be managed in a way that promotes the 'high quality' outcomes set out in the waste hierarchy guidance.

How should I operate a co-mingled collection service to deliver high quality?

The aim of separate collection is to promote 'high quality' recycling through maintaining the purity of the waste collected. Co-mingled wastes sorted at a MRF face quality problems from a number of sources. Services must be designed to:

  • avoid co-mingling with inappropriate waste types,
  • minimise the risk of producers putting non-target and non-recyclable waste into the collection, and
  • avoid over compaction of the waste which can bind, break and change the shape of materials.

You cannot offer services which seek to intentionally mix dry recyclables with waste which can not be recycled or would significantly reduce the quality of the material. For example, dry recyclables can not be mixed with residual waste or food waste as this would significantly reduce material quality and may render materials unsuitable for 'high quality' recycling.

Some dry recyclables are also best collected separately from other dry recyclables. Co-mingled cans, tins, plastic bottles and tetrapak are easily separated at MRFs. However, the introduction of both paper and glass at the same time in these systems can make separation more difficult and is likely to affect final output quality.

Several UK paper mills are unwilling to accept paper which has been separated from fully co-mingled systems containing glass. Further, glass produced from fully co-mingled systems is likely to be of significantly lower quality than glass collected separately and a significant proportion glass collected in this way will be unlikely to go forward to the priority 'high quality' applications [3] but instead pass forward to low quality outlets such as aggregates manufacture.

Fully co-mingled systems which include both paper and glass together should therefore be avoided as they are unlikely to comply with the derogation or the duty to promote 'high quality' recycling.

A broad summary of collection types and their compliance with the duty to collect key materials separately and promote high quality recycling is presented in Table 6.

Table 6 Segregation Summary

Collection Type Description Compatibility with Duty
Separate Collection Each of the dry recyclables separated at source into discrete streams for collection and processing. Includes kerbside sort systems. This system is most likely to result in material which can go forward for 'high quality' recycling.
Partially Co-Mingled Some dry recyclables presented together for collection ( eg. cans and plastic bottles) for subsequent separation at a MRF. Acceptable only where separation results in material which is of comparable quality to separately collected material and which go forward for 'high quality' recycling.
Fully Co-Mingled All of the dry recyclables, including paper and glass, presented and collected together in one container and vehicle for subsequent separation at a MRF. Unlikely to be acceptable. Paper and glass from these systems are likely to be of significantly lower quality than if separately collected and unlikely to be of sufficient quality for 'high quality' recycling.
Survival Bags Some dry recyclables placed into a sealed, durable bag and collected in the same container and compacted in the same vehicle as residual waste. Acceptable only where separation results in material which can go forward for 'high quality' recycling.
Residual Waste Sorting Removal of recyclable materials from mixed municipal waste. Not compliant with the duty, although treatment of residual waste may still yield material for recycling.

A 2012 study estimates that the average concentration of non-target and non-recyclable wastes entering Scottish MRFs from co-mingled systems is as much as 10.5%.

As a service provider and collector of waste you should provide information to your customers on how to use the co-mingled service effectively. Advice should cover keeping materials clean and dry and avoiding contamination by non-target and non-recyclable waste. Receptacles should be labelled to clearly identify the target waste streams. Spot checks should be carried out to identify contamination and advice provided to producers to reduce reoccurrences.

You must consider how you compact the dry recyclables you collect as it can have an effect on quality. While not as important as minimising contamination with non-target and non-recyclable material at source, compaction may have the following effects;

  • items changing shape. Three-dimensional objects such as containers can be flattened and lead to mis-sorting by ballistic separators, with these items ending up in the paper stream.
  • reduction in particle size, resulting in more fine material. This can increase the residue rate of a MRF as a result of target material being mis-sorted and makes manual picking more difficult.
  • items being compacted together to form multi-material items that are either rejected or become contamination. This can be a particular issue for metals, since compacted metals retain their shape.

The issue of co-mingling and MRF separation techniques is complex and further measures will be carried forward by Scottish Government to ensure that co-mingled collections can provide material quality which is not significantly less than that which would result from a fully separate collection.

Table 7 Recycling Service Checklist

As a collector, it is reasonable to provide the following to your customer;
  • A collection service tailored to meet the needs of your customer, with reliable and regular collections.
  • Information on how to use the service effectively ( e.g. clean and dry materials) and to avoid contamination by non-target and non-recyclable wastes.
  • Clear labelling of collection receptacles to identify what material should be included and what should be excluded.
  • A system of spot checks to assess collected material for non target and non-recyclable materials and feedback identified problems with appropriate advice.
  • Target material collected processed to deliver comparable quality to separately collected waste and which can go forward to 'high quality' recycling.

Can I collect glass as mixed colour?

If the mixed glass is subsequently colour separated to the quality required by the glass remelt industry, mixing different glass colours together at source is compatible with the duty to promote 'high quality' recycling.

Specifically with respect to separate collections of mixed colour glass, limited compaction at source and in the collection vehicle means that optical colour separation technology can be employed to ensure glass cullet at a quality suitable for remelt. If glass is broken into too small pieces, colour separation is not possible and a significant proportion of the glass may not be able to go forward for 'high quality' recycling.

Are there any other particular waste types I need to know about?

You must comply with special requirements for certain wastes, such as special waste and those covered under producer take back schemes:

Step 1b - Provide a Food Waste Collection

Recycling food waste has the potential to bring significant economic and environmental benefits to Scotland. If you provide waste services to food businesses, you may be required to take all reasonable steps ensure they comply with their duty to present food waste for separate collection.

What is a food business?

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 define food businesses as;

"An undertaking, whether for profit or not, and whether public or private, carrying out any activity related to the processing, distribution, preparation or sale of food".

This definition is targeted specifically on significant food waste producers. Table 8 provides examples of the type of activities captured by the duty.

Food waste produced in commercial kitchens and by customers who consume food on the premises of a food business is covered by this duty and reasonable steps must be taken to capture that food waste separately.

Waste from food purchased and then discarded by customers off the premises, such as from take aways, is not covered by this duty.

Further, premises where food is brought from elsewhere to be consumed but which are not food businesses, such as office staff rooms, are not captured by this definition.

Table 8 Food Businesses

Examples of "Food Businesses" include;
  • Restaurants
  • Caf├ęs
  • Shopping centre food courts
  • Canteens
  • Hotels
  • Public Houses that serve food
  • Shops that sell food
  • Supermarkets
  • Schools & colleges with canteens
  • Prisons
  • Nursing Homes
  • Hospitals

Are there any exemptions?

There are three exemptions from the duty present food waste for separate collection.

  • Rural food business premises

Rural food businesses are exempt form the requirement to present food waste separately. Rural is defined using the six-fold classification system used by Scottish Government. A document entitled "Defining rural and non-rural areas to support zero waste policies" has been published containing all the rural postcodes which benefit from the exemption.

You may still offer a food waste collection service to premises in rural areas. However, uptake will be at the discretion of the producer.

  • Food businesses producing less than 5kg per week

There is also a de-minimus threshold for food businesses that produce only a very small quantity of food waste. Food businesses which consistently produce less than 5kg per week do not have to present that food waste for separate collection. 5kg is roughly equivalent to a full domestic kitchen caddy.

You may still offer a food waste collection service to premises which fall under the de-minimus threshold. However, uptake will be at the discretion of the producer.

  • Food waste that has arisen from international transport

International catering waste is designated as a Category 1 Animal By-Product and therefore requires specialist management. As such, it does not fall within the scope of this duty.

When do food businesses have to comply?

For food businesses which consistently produce 50kg or more food waste per week, the duty starts from 01 January 2014. A 120 litre bin will hold around 60kg of food waste. So, as a guide, if your customer fills, or come close to filling a 120 litre bin a week on a consistent basis, then the waste service must include the separate collection of food waste.

For food businesses which produce between 5kg and 50kg of food waste, the duty starts two years later, on 01 January 2016.

What if my customer uses a macerator to dispose of food waste to a drain or sewer?

Food waste disposers ( i.e. macerators) cannot be used to discharge food waste to a drain or sewer in a non-rural area where a separate food waste collection service is available.

Systems which dewater food waste at source and store the solid material for collection and treatment are an acceptable form of management only where they are configured to maximise the capture of organic material.

Does all packaging from the food waste prior to collection?

Not necessarily, it may be that specialist equipment provided at a treatment facility is able to remove packaging. In such circumstances, it is not necessary to de-package the food waste at the place of production.

Can food businesses compost food waste on their premises?

Yes, if a food business composts their own food waste and have a use for the resulting compost, they can continue to do that. The Paragraph 12 Waste Management Licence Exemption permits the small scale compositing of catering waste, including meat.

Can food waste be mixed with any other waste?

Food waste can be mixed with other biodegradable wastes provided that;

  • the quantity of food waste presented is comparable.
  • the food waste can be managed in a way which meets the relevant quality standards and promotes high quality recycling.

The relevant quality standards are PAS100 for composting and PAS110 for anaerobic digestion. Therefore, food waste can only be mixed with other biodegradable wastes listed in the PAS 100 & 110 standards and only if the resulting mix can still be processed to those standards.

Food waste must not be mixed, either at source, in the collection vehicle or at the processing facility, with waste which would undermine these quality standards such as residual municipal waste or sewage sludge. However, it may be possible to collect food waste together with compostable packaging materials.

Step 2 - Prevent the Escape of Waste

You must not allow any waste materials to escape from your control during transport. Vehicles and containers must be suitable for holding the waste so that it does not escape during transport and management e.g. containers should not be overloaded and open containers should be securely netted or covered to prevent waste from falling out.

What should I look out for when collecting waste?

When you collect waste from any premises you must ensure:

  • Waste is being stored in a secure location and in suitable containers for both transport and subsequent management. If the waste is kept in a less secure location, other parties may have mixed their waste with that for which you have the contract. This means that the waste may not correspond to the description you have been given.
  • Waste is being stored so that recyclable waste materials are kept separate from mixed waste and are not significantly contaminated with non-target and non-recyclable waste.
  • Where waste is stored in containers, these should be clearly labelled with their contents so that you know what the wastes are and can confirm that you are collecting the correct waste. Containers must be stored safely and leakage prevented and/or controlled.
  • Container labels should clearly describe the properties of the waste so that you and the next holder know what measures are required to store and transport the waste safely.
  • If you consider that the containers are unsafe you have a duty not to transport them in that state. You must re-pack the waste, or arrange for its re-packaging, until you are satisfied that the waste can be transported safely.
  • Open containers which are stored outside may contain rainwater. This might escape during transit and may be contaminated after being in contact with waste. It could also make the load unstable for transport. This would be an indication that on-site storage was not adequately safe and secure.

Identified issues should be discussed with the client and an appropriate remediation plan agreed.

Step 3 - Describing the Waste

Waste Transfer Note

You must ensure that any waste you collect is covered by a waste transfer note ( WTN). You must also ensure that any waste being transferred from you to another holder is covered by a WTN. WTNs are your evidence that you collected that waste and passed on and that it was adequately described. Guidance on the information that a transfer note must contain is provided in Chapter 10.

The WTN must include a written description that will enable you and anyone subsequently receiving it to manage it in accordance with the Duty of Care. If the waste is not properly described or you have or failed to inform the next holder the properties of the waste, then you may still be liable if something goes wrong after the waste is transferred.

The person you are collecting the waste from should be able to provide you with the information you need but you need to confirm that it is correct and that you can meet your own obligations

You should know what and how much waste you are contracted to collect, so that when you arrive to collect any waste you should, as a minimum be able to inspect the waste to ensure that it corresponds to the description given to you. It is particularly important to note any waste that may require separate handling or particular treatment ( e.g. batteries, WEEE).

You must keep a copy of the transfer note signed by yourself and the person you transfer waste to for two years. This can be an electronic copy, including electronic signatures, provided an enforcement officer can view it. You also need to keep any additional information about the waste with this note such as any analysis results.

A ' season ticket' system can be used for waste of the same description which is transferred between the same transferor and transferee for a period up to 12 months. This avoids the need for a separate transfer note for each waste load transferred although you should keep a log of individual loads collected from you under season ticket arrangements. "Season tickets" can be used, for example, for the weekly collection of waste from shops or repeat journeys of excavated materials from a construction project. Provided all the required information is contained on it and both parties have signed it, an invoice can be used as a WTN.

If the waste is Special Waste you have the same obligations under the Duty of Care. A consignment note , rather than a transfer note, is required to comply with the Special Waste (Scotland) Regulations 1996 (as amended).

What is an adequate description?

An adequate description will depend upon the nature of the waste and any treatment or sorting process that it has already been through. The waste producer must be able to adequately describe waste that has arisen from their processes. They may also be able to provide detailed safety information about specific waste materials. The description they provide must include details such as:

  • Can the waste be accepted at the intended waste management site?
  • Can it be disposed of safely in a landfill site with other waste?
  • Does the waste need a special container to prevent its escape or to protect it from the elements, e.g. loose waste?
  • Does the waste require particular treatment or separate handling, e.g. dry recyclables, food waste, contaminated soil, batteries or WEEE?
  • Is it likely to change its physical state during storage or transport, e.g. might it give off gas or become liquid, in which case sufficient headspace will need to be provided in containers?
  • Are there any other issues with the waste which others should be aware of (smell, liquids leaching from the waste, etc)?

Waste described as "general rubbish" or "muck" would not constitute an adequate description. You may need to get advice from the site waste manager to answer some of these.

Step 4 - Waste must only be transferred to an Authorised Person

The person you are collecting waste from is expected to check that you are appropriately registered with SEPA to carry their waste. You must ensure that your carrier registration is valid and the details correct. You must be able to provide evidence of registration on request.

Who needs to register as a waste carrier?

All people who normally and regularly transport waste, whether that waste is produced by them in the course of their business, or by others, should be registered as a waste carrier. There are some exemptions from the requirement to register.

If you are uncertain whether you should be registered your local SEPA office can advise you.

The person you are collecting waste from should also ask where you are taking their waste, in order to fulfil their own duty of care. You must ensure that the person or business you pass the waste on to is appropriately authorised to receive it.

What must I do to check authorised persons details?

When you carry waste you should determine the nature of the next holder. You must make sure that any person or business you supply with waste is authorised to accept it. All sites managing waste for treatment and/or disposal are required to hold an appropriate permit, licence or exemption.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 extend the range of waste types banned from incineration and landfill. From 01 January 2014, you must not take separately collected recyclable materials - paper, card, plastics, metal, glass and food waste directly for incineration or landfilling. Also, after 01 January 2021, all biodegradable municipal waste will be banned from landfill.

As a carrier you must take all reasonable measures to ensure that you do not take waste to a site which is not authorised to accept it. Information on the transfer note will help you to comply with your Duty of Care.

As a minimum you should ask for:

  • The reference number of the site's Licence or Permit so that you can check this against SEPA's public registers to confirm that it is genuine and valid and evidence that it allows for deposit of the waste you are carrying.
  • Confirmation from SEPA if you are at all unsure whether the site can accept the waste.
  • A description of the waste on the transfer note which is adequate for you to be reasonably certain that the waste can be accepted at the next site.

If you are a waste collecting agent or carrier and you are sending waste to a facility that may be involved in the export of waste, you must ensure that you have sufficient information to satisfy yourself that any waste that is collected by you or on your behalf that may be exported is done so legally.

In the event that waste collected by you is subsequently shipped illegally, you may be liable for the costs of return and subject to enforcement action.

Step 5 - Prevent Your Waste Causing Harm or Pollution

Harm or pollution can be result from the unauthorised or inappropriate deposit, treatment, recovery or disposal etc of waste.

What do I need to do to prevent Harm or pollution?

A carrier is responsible according to what he 'knows or should have foreseen'. You will share responsibility with the waste producer to ensure that the waste is delivered satisfactorily to the next holder. This includes taking account of anything you see or learn about the way the next holder deals with the waste. For example:

  • You should be suspicious of people or businesses offering unrealistically cheap waste services. This may be a sign that the waste is not being legally managed.
  • It may be clear that waste is being dealt with in a way that is not best or usual practice. There may be activities going on at a site which you think may be illegal, such as burning.
  • You may notice that a waste manager or subsequent carrier mixing separately collected recyclables with other waste types with different properties. This undermines the effort put into source segregation and separate collection, lowering the quality of recyclate and increases the risk of illegal exports.
  • You may notice that a waste manager is accepting too much waste and that the extra waste you are delivering could add to problems at the site.
  • You may notice that subsequent holders are allowing waste to escape from their control e.g. causing litter, allowing liquids to leak out of containers. You may notice activities suggesting that they are engaged in fly-tipping.

These would be grounds for suspecting that harm is being caused or is likely to be caused if you continue to deposit waste there. A carrier should act on any knowledge to stop the illegal handling of waste.

Whenever you become aware that your waste is being illegally dealt with you should inform SEPA through their 24 hour pollution hotline - 0800 80 70 60. You can also use Crimestoppers' anonymous online report form.


Back to top