Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 14:22 UK

The many types of hazardous waste

Firms even have to think about how their dispose of humble batteries

The days when small firms could simply throw all their rubbish in the bin are long gone.

Today much of it is officially classified as hazardous and must be instead collected and disposed of separately, as Martin Gibson director of environmental consultancy BuildDesk explained back in 2005.

At the time he was director of Envirowise, the government-backed programme designed to help companies reduce their environmental costs.

Julian Wernick, UK
We are a small office. Specifically, what normal office waste is hazardous?

Dr Martin Gibson
From 16 July 2005, more types of waste materials have been classified as hazardous waste under the Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 and the Lists of Wastes (England) Regulations 2005.

The most common office items now classified as hazardous waste are:

  • Fluorescent tubes as used for overhead lighting in commercial premises

  • Batteries containing Lead, Ni-cad or mercury, as used in typical household and office applications.

    From time to time, offices may also need to dispose of fridges, computers and television sets, many of which are classified as hazardous waste.

    Hazardous wastes will need to be collected and disposed of separately.

    Separate collections can be arranged via an approved waste contractor, or businesses can take these items to an authorised waste transfer site or landfill.

    Further information and details of approved landfill sites can be found on the Environment Agency's website, a link to which is on the right.

    All waste destined for landfill must meet Waste Acceptance Criteria. Usually this will involve the producer in discussions with waste contractors and/or landfill operators.

    Many waste contractors are involved with recycling and waste treatment.

    For example, specialist companies are able to process fluorescent tubes by extracting the glass and metal components and distilling the elemental mercury from the powder for reuse.

    Offices in England and Wales which produce more than 200kg of hazardous waste in any 12-month period will need to register with the Environment Agency.

    As an indication, 200kg equates to approximately 10 small TVs, or 14 lead acid car batteries, or 500 fluorescent tubes, or five domestic fridges.

    Many small offices are unlikely to generate these quantities and will not need to register as a hazardous waste producer.

    A consignment note must be completed to accompany hazardous waste when it's moved from any premises, including premises which are exempt from registration.

    Further guidance can again be accessed on the Environment Agency's website.

    Dr Gibson is director of Envirowise, the government-financed programme designed to help companies reduce their environmental costs.

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