Legal definition of waste guidance

How to decide if a material is waste or not – advice for organisations such as businesses, local authorities and charities.

This publication was withdrawn on

Applies to England, Northern Ireland and Wales


[Withdrawn] Legal definition of waste (original full document)

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The general guide explains how to work out if waste rules apply to your material. You will need to:

  • decide if your material is waste
  • identify when waste rules apply
  • find out when waste ceases to be waste
  • find out when waste rules do not apply

The full document is set out in 3 parts. They are:

  • part 1 – the background and rationale for providing guidance on end of waste
  • part 2 – a practical guide for businesses and other organisations
  • part 3 – detailed guidance on the legal definition of waste and its application

Check when a material is waste, is a by-product or meets ‘end of waste’ status.

Published 5 May 2016
Last updated 31 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated links to the new 'Check if your material is waste' and 'Get an opinion from the definition of waste service' guidance.

  2. Updated to add references to Natural Resources Wales.

  3. Updated links to the Waste Framework Directive.

  4. Added attachment 'Definition of waste: 2018 Waste Framework Directive amendments' which summarises the changes to the law and the Environment Agency's approach to this.

  5. First published.

  6. Published revised general guide to businesses.