Resource efficiency in highways - waste legislation

The management and disposal of waste is controlled by a range of legislation. Some of these directly deal with waste, while others have a less obvious influence. Much of this legislation has been introduced or modified in the last 20 or so years as awareness of the problems generated by waste disposal and consumption of natural resources has grown.

European Directives

UK waste legislation is influenced by EU legislation. EU Directives relating to waste are:

  1. Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC)
  2. Landfill Directive (Directive 99/31/EC)
  3. EU Directive on Hazardous Waste (Directive 91/689/EEC as amended by Directive 94/31/EC)
  4. The Mining Waste Directive (Directive 2006/21/EC on the management of waste from extractive industries)

There are three types of European waste law.

  1. Horizontal legislation
  2. Legislation on treatment operations
  3. Legislation on specific waste streams

The waste framework directive is horizontal legislation. It provides the overarching frameworks for the collection, transport, recovery and disposal of waste.

The Landfill Directive is the second type of legislation. It sets out how member nations should dispose of waste and calls on member nations to reduce the amount of waste disposed of to landfill.


UK Law - Acts of Parliament

EU Directives are incorporated into UK Acts of Parliament and Regulations.

Acts relating to waste include:

  1. Control of Pollution Act 1974/The Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 
  2. Environmental Protection Act 1990
  3. Town & Country Planning Act 1990
  4. Planning & Compensation Act 1991
  5. Waste Minimisation Act 1998
  6. Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003 and Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005

The Control of Pollution Act 1974/The Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 was superseded by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 introduced the concept of “Duty of Care” (section 34), which means that anyone who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of waste is subject to a duty of care.

Breach of the Duty of Care is an offence. DEFRA has produced statutory guidance on duty of care transfer note.

The Waste Management Regulations Step by Step Tool developed by WRAP is freely available from the AggRegain website. Individuals involved in construction waste materials can use this tool to help them to comply with relevant regulations.

Any client commissioning works on a highway scheme has to comply with the Duty of Care and other waste legislation. The contractor is responsible for day to day management of waste in compliance with regulations.

UK Regulations

Regulations relating to waste include:

  1. Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (replaces The Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 and the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) regime)
  2. Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008
  3. Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 (amended on 6 April 2009) 
  4. Environmental protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 
  5. Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002
  6. The Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) Regulations 1991; The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997, as amended; and The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 1998

For the construction industry one of the most important regulations to be recently introduced is the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations. Currently these only apply in England. The Regulations require that a SWMP is produced for all construction projects with an estimated value over £300,000 (exc. VAT) at one site. Tools and guidance on implementing a Site Waste Management Plans are also available from the WRAP Construction Portal.



The Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Local Authorities are normally the regulators of waste legislation and able to take any organisation not complying with these regulations to court. The main regulators; the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Northern Ireland Environment Agency have established NetRegs to provide guidance on environmental legislation for businesses. Their website gives the legislation relevant to different activities such as asphalt planning and laying. It describes how the legislation is applied and the permits necessary for that particular activity.

  1. Environment Agency
  2. Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  3. Northern Ireland Environment Agency

Useful links and downloadble documents

  • EU Waste Framework Directive
  • EU Landfill Directive
  • EU Directive on Hazardous Waste
  • DEFRA Duty of Care Code of Practice Consultation
  • Waste Emissions and Trading Act 2003
  • NetRegs
  • SWMP Regulations 2008