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Householder's duty of care

What happens if someone else takes my waste away?

As a householder, you have a legal obligation (duty of care) to take all reasonable measures to ensure that your waste is disposed of properly.

The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations require all householders to make sure their waste is only removed from their premises by registered waste carriers.

These include any private waste collector who holds a waste carrier’s licence issued by the Environment Agency.

Why should I have an obligation to ensure that a waste carrier disposes of my waste correctly?

The waste duty of care is an important weapon against waste crime. Unlicensed waste carriers are likely to cut corners in order to be able to offer their services at lower prices than the going rates, unfairly undercutting legitimate businesses who take their environmental responsibilities seriously.

Unlicensed carriers may be tempted to illegally dump, or 'fly-tip', the waste they collect in order to avoid the charges for proper disposal - not only does this have the obvious consequences of pollution and environmental damage, but the Council Tax payer has to fund the clear-up costs of waste dumped on public land, and landowners have to bear this cost themselves if waste is fly-tipped on private land.

Surely if they dump it, then it is their fault, not mine?

If waste originating from your property is found to have been fly-tipped, you are obliged to provide  details of who you gave it to, so that the matter can be taken up with that person directly. If you did not check that the person that you gave your waste to was authorised to accept it, and you can't provide this information when asked, then you may be prosecuted and run the risk of a £5,000 fine and a criminal record.

Do I need a waste carrier’s licence to take my own waste to the recycling centre?

No. Householders can still dispose of their own waste at Household Recycling Centres free of charge. If you are unable to take bulky items to one of the centres, most district councils offer a bulky waste collection for a fee or there are a number of charity-run furniture projects locally that arrange for the reuse of unwanted furniture and other household items.

How can I prevent my waste being disposed of incorrectly by a rogue waste carrier?

Whenever you are considering arranging for anyone to collect any waste from your household, always carry out the following checks:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions - you have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent someone else dumping your waste unlawfully. Always ask a carrier what exactly is going to happen to your waste and seek evidence that it is going to be disposed of appropriately. A legitimate, professional waste carrier who wants your business should not object to being asked reasonable questions.
  • Ask for details of their waste carrier registration - if you are using a waste carrier to remove household, garden or construction waste you can check if they are registered waste carriers by searching the Environment Agency's public register of waste carriers or by calling 03708 506 506.
  • Record the vehicle registration numbers of any vehicle used by a private waste carrier to take your waste away. The waste carrier may be less likely to illegally dump your waste if he is aware that his vehicle registration and details has been recorded and that he can be traced. If waste is found dumped illegally and traced back to you, investigators will have more information with which to trace the culprits; the more information that can be provided, the greater the probability of us being able to tackle those responsible.
  • Ask for a proper invoice and receipt. Never pay cash.  A legitimate waste carrier will be happy to accept card payments.
  • Never accept unsolicited offers to have waste taken away.
  • Get more than one quote and expect to pay a reasonable fee - the fees that legitimate waste carriers have to pay to dispose of waste that they collect are not cheap. An unusually low quote, or an offer to take rubbish away for free in order to profit from any scrap metal that may be among it, should be treated with suspicion.

Remember - always ask for their waste carrier number and if in doubt check their details with the Environment Agency - it is you that could face a fine of up to £5,000 if you do not and your waste ends up dumped illegally.