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Duty of care

Businesses and organisations have a responsibility to ensure their waste is disposed of legally which is detailed in The Environmental Protection Act 1990, section 34. This is known as your ‘duty of care’. Business waste includes that which comes from construction, demolition, industry, agriculture and any commercial activity – including any run from home.

The duty of care means you have to:

  • Prevent the escape of waste
  • Reduce waste where possible
  • Separate your waste into streams - dry recycling and food waste (with some exceptions)
  • Transfer waste to licensed bodies
  • Complete and retain waste transfer notes and consignment notes.

There are further requirements if you treat or transport waste yourself and also for any waste that is hazardous (sometimes referred to as special waste).

Overall, you must ensure your waste is stored safely, for example in a dedicated, preferably locked, space in secure containers and then dealt with responsibility which means it does not end up in the environment as litter or flytipping.  

Businesses that do not comply with the legislation will face enforcement action.

Litter on your land

You should take every effort to keep your land litter-free as it is everyone's responsibility to keep our environment clear, safe and enjoyable.

Some organisations have a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Section 89) to keep their land clear of litter and refuse. Information of who has this duty and more details can be found on the page on Responsibilities.

For all other organisations there is a need to deal with your waste responsibly as well as ensure you do not let litter accumulate and cause issues on our streets and open spaces. If litter becomes an issue, occupiers of the premises or land could be issued with a street litter control notice.

Circular economy

We know that a significant way to reduce litter is to reduce the amount of waste we create. We should be taking steps to a more circular economy – one where we keep materials flowing though the economy rather than wasting resource and using new natural resources. This affects the design and manufacture of items and then depends on consumers to keep them going.

If you provide products to consumers, you should think about how they will be used, making items that are durable and repairable. You can also look at how items can be re-used if they are no longer wanted – it should not end as waste. There are examples of organisations that now refurbish their products such as Decathlon.

Zero Waste Scotland have a support programme for the reuse sector called Revolve. This offers information and support.

Items you use should be maintained and repaired wherever possible and reused to the fullest lifetime possible. There are many services and shops that now repair and refurbish items. At the end of their working lives, items should then be separated into parts and recycled as much as possible; this follows the waste hierarchy too - Reduce; Re-use; Recycle; Recover; Disposal.

To see what waste your organisation is creating you can look at all business activities and identify where waste can be minimised. For example, looking at every product supplied and seeing if packaging can be either be re-filled, sent back to suppliers or you can request items without packaging. You can also look at items that don’t have a long working life – could you change the product for one that is longer lasting or easily repairable? Another way to discover how to reduce waste is to identify what is ending up as waste. Looking at the items in your waste streams will show what activities are creating waste and then look at changes to that activity.

Events

Events can be a cause of waste, and therefore litter, whether it be in the workplace or one organised by a community group.

Dependant on the size and nature of the event you will have to take certain steps to ensure a litter-free event:  

  • Appoint a waste collector
  • Explain litter-free expectation and responsibilities ahead of the event
  • Plan the need for ample bins (including recycling where possible)
  • Ensure bins are well labelled, obvious and serviced throughout the event
  • Ensure all employees, suppliers, contractors and volunteers know the bin locations, use and servicing
  • Remind people to put their waste in bins or take it home, including posters, banners or stands
  • Complete any paperwork for evidence of transfer of waste if necessary
  • Check the site for any escaped waste at the end of the event

Trash Free Trails have a Sustainable Event Accreditation Scheme, designed for outdoor race events which could be relevant and helpful too.

Recognition

There are environmental award schemes for organisations that put effort into keeping their premises clean and tidy. Whilst these include a much greater range of environmental issues, litter is taken into account:

Businesses and Housing Associations: National Award for Environmental Excellence®

Hospitality businesses: Green Key

Schools: Eco-schools

Further reading

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