A waste management licence is a legal document that permits the holder to deposit, recover or dispose of controlled materials.  

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 defines controlled waste as: “Any waste from a house, shop, office, factory or any other trade or business premises. It is controlled waste whether it is solid or liquid and even if it is not hazardous or toxic.”

An individual or business will require either a mobile or site waste management licence if it...

  • Operates a landfill site
  • Stores other people's waste
  • Treats wasteCarries out recycling 
  • Uses a mobile incinerator 
  • Carries out the final disposal of waste

Activities that do not require a waste management licence include...

  • Using waste in construction
  • Burning waste as a fuel in an exempt appliance
  • Storing specified waste securely
  • Treating specific waste to recover materials
  • Storing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) for recovery at a place other than where it was produced

Any business that thinks its waste management activity makes it exempt from a licence should check with the Environment Agency.

How do I obtain a waste management licence?

In England and Wales, both mobile and site waste management licences are issued by the Environment Agency under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994.

Every licence issued by the EA has conditions to make sure that the authorised activities do not cause 

  • Pollution of the environment
  • Harm to human health 
  • Serious detriment to local amenities  

Once a site is licensed, it will appear on the EA’s public register. However, any business that does not want certain details made public because it is commercially confidential can apply to have the information withheld.

The EA will make regular visits to licence holders to ensure that any conditions imposed are being met. Beware that there is an annual fee on top of the application charge to cover the costs of these visits.  

Beware that failure to follow the conditions of a licence is an offence and guilty parties could be fined up to £5000.

And failure to obtain a licence if required is also punishable with both a fine a imprisonment for up to five years.

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