What Is Hazardous Waste? Regulations, Waste Materials and Disposal



This guide will explore hazardous waste, what it is, how to dispose of it and current regulations you need to know.


As waste management experts, we strive to assist businesses and support change within the waste industry. We have years of experience in the area of hazardous waste, but we know the topic isn’t always clear-cut. There might be some confusion regarding what hazardous waste is, how to handle it safely and how to dispose of it.

We must be vigilant when it comes to hazardous waste — human health and the environment depend on businesses and individuals doing the right thing, in the right way. To make your life easier, we’ve put together a guide that outlines:

What Is Hazardous Waste?
Examples of Hazardous Waste Materials.
How to Identify Hazardous Waste.
Hazardous Waste Regulations.
How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste.

What Is Hazardous Waste?

Under environmental legislation, hazardous waste consists of materials (solid or liquid) that are harmful to people and the environment. Hazardous waste can harm a human being through touch, inhalation or ingestion.

Such waste usually has properties that are:

  • Oxidising
  • Flammable
  • Toxic
  • Ecotoxic
  • Carcinogenic
  • Corrosive
  • Mutagenic
  • Infectious
  • Unstable and chemically reactive (they might produce harmful fumes, or explode when exposed to other compounds).

Most hazardous waste is created in industry. You can learn more about how the Environment Agency interprets and defines hazardous waste by looking at their technical guidance.


Examples of Hazardous Waste Materials

Hazardous waste comes in many forms. Some examples of hazardous waste include:

  • Waste electrical equipment (including fridges, which contain ozone-depleting substances)
  • Florescent tubes
  • Asbestos
  • Certain chemicals (including print toner and brake fluid)
  • Batteries
  • Solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Certain oils (particularly car oil)
  • Hazardous waste containers
  • Some soils
  • Some packaging waste
  • Some clinical and healthcare waste.

While this list might seem comprehensive, there is still some ambiguity and you might be unclear as to whether a certain substance is classified as hazardous. Thankfully, there are resources available that can help you to identify hazardous waste accurately.


How to Identify Hazardous Waste


If you are uncertain about whether or not you’re handling hazardous waste, there is information about how to classify different types of waste on the government website. Additionally, the European Waste Catalogue lists over 650 waste types — those with an asterisk by them are considered hazardous. Some substances have hazardous and non-hazardous entries because some waste might be dangerous if they contain substances above certain levels. If this is the case for you, you will need to have the waste assessed to determine its classification. You should be able to find guidance and safety information on the manufacturer’s product.

There is also a Misclassification Guide that can be useful for businesses. The Waste Classification Group produces this guide, and it lists some of the most common errors made with regards to the classification and coding of waste.

We have an important note of caution for you — you might be tempted to play it safe and treat a substance as hazardous if you are unsure. However, you should know it is illegal to mix hazardous waste with a non-hazardous waste (or, in fact, another dangerous waste product).

To avoid any mistakes, you can put your mind at ease and ensure compliance by making use of a free waste management audit.


Hazardous Waste Regulations

When it comes to hazardous waste regulations, we have European directives and national regulations that are in place to ensure safety measures are met.

European directives on waste management:

National regulations regarding waste management:


How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste

Disposal is another complicated area to navigate. There is a wide range of hazardous waste materials, each with its specific method of disposal. We have a guide on how to safely dispose of hazardous waste, but if you want to ensure compliance, it’s best to leave waste management to the professionals. We’ll ensure all measures are put in place to dispose of your hazardous waste safely. In fact, the act of hiring waste disposal experts could save you a great deal of time and money. We have the expertise, experience and equipment to significantly reduce the risk involved in waste management.

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