The Rules on Domestic Waste Explained

It is fair to say that in the UK the rules on the disposal of domestic waste have become a little complicated. It used to be so simple; you put everything in one dustbin and the bin men came every week to empty it. Those were the good old days. For larger items you could hire a skip, throw in whatever you wanted and have that taken away too.

But with the advent of the EU Waste Framework Directive and the Landfill Directive we now have to follow strict rules on what we can throw away and where we can put it. We have separate containers for general rubbish, paper, green waste, glass and so on and systems can vary widely throughout the country. The government and local authorities are bound by strict regulations and a punitive system of fines regarding what kind of materials can go to landfill sites. This is one the reasons behind why so many householders have fallen foul of the confusion regarding what they are allowed to put in their recycling and general waste bins and have been fined as a result. We’ll try to explain the rules here.

Aim to reduce and recycle

The Landfill Directive and the EU regulations basically aim to encourage the uptake of recycling in order to benefit and protect the environment. To this end the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations prevent any hazardous materials entering the environment and also aim to increase the recycling of as much of this material as possible.

There are also rules on the disposal of food waste and these are especially strict for businesses. Food waste must be placed in containers that cannot be opened so that it spills out onto the street. This is obviously to prevent infestation by vermin and insects that are unfortunately attracted to the waste we produce.

Hazardous waste needs special permission for its disposal and it is illegal to mix it with non-hazardous waste.

What about what you can put in a skip?

If you have large items or large amounts of waste to dispose of, like building waste for example, it’s advisable to hire a skip. These come in various sizes so you’ll need a skip size guide to see which is best for you. A 6 yard skip is equivalent to 40 bin bags and is suitable for heavy waste while a 2 cubic yard skip, or mini-skip, is equal to 20 bin bags. Whether you are doing building work, having a clearout or re-modelling the garden you can use a skip for the disposal of these. As a general rule, things you are allowed to put in a skip include green waste, building debris or non-hazardous waste.

A simple way to remember the rule of what you can legally and safely dispose of is this – domestic waste is defined as non-recyclable and non-hazardous waste and this applies to whatever you put in a skip as much as whatever you place in your bins.

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