The Duty of Care is set out in section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and associated regulations. It applies to anyone who is the holder of waste, including local authorities, businesses and waste management companies.

Persons concerned with waste must ensure that the waste is managed properly, recovered or disposed of safely, does not cause harm to human health or pollution of the environment and is only transferred to someone who is authorised to receive it. The duty applies to any person who produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste or as a broker has control of such waste.

Breach of the Duty of Care is an offence, with a penalty of up to £5000 on summary conviction or an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment.

Under the Duty of Care Regulations 1991 (‘the 1991 Regulations’), parties transferring waste are required to complete and retain a ‘transfer note’, containing a written description of that waste. Records must be kept for a minimum of 2 years

The 1991 Regulations require waste to be described on the transfer note by reference to the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) and its appropriate code number. These amendments to the 1991 regulations were brought in to meet the Landfill Directive’s requirements on monitoring the

acceptance and treatment of waste, and will also help to fulfill the UK’s obligation to implement the EWC.

The paper-based system of waste transfer notes is now set to be replaced by an internet-based system from 2012, after the Environment Agency secured European funding in July 2010 to roll out an earlier trial of the ‘Electronic Duty of Care’ nationwide.

Household Duty of Care

The Waste (Household Waste) Duty of Care (England & Wales) Regulations 2005 introduced a new duty on householders on 21 November 2005. Under this duty, householders are required to take reasonable measures to ensure that household waste produced on their property is passed on to an authorised person.

The regulations aimed to lead  to better waste management and help to reduce illegal waste activity such as fly-tipping. However, they do not require the householder to complete and retain a written description of the waste (the ‘transfer note’).