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Waste Exemptions: What, Why and How?

15 May 2019


The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 define the requirements for  applying for, receiving, varying, transferring and surrendering permits, along with compliance, enforcement and appeals arrangements. The regulations separate the application process and requirements into various industry activities such as landfill operations, groundwater activities, water discharge activities, etc. (an exhaustive list is documented within the 2016 regulations).

Included in the permitted activities are various waste operations that use, treat, recover, store and/or dispose of waste. An organisation will qualify for a waste permit if it uses, treats, recovers, stores and/or disposes of waste in excess of certain quantities over a period of time (this information is explicitly stated within the 2016 regulations).

However, there are some organisations that use, treat, recover, store and/or dispose of waste but in quantities that fall below the permitted limits. As a result of this, there are some waste operations exempt from permitting – waste exemptions.

Waste exemptions, as defined by the Environment Agency (EA), are waste operations that are exempt from needing an environmental permit but still require the holder to operate within specified limits and conditions.


Waste exemptions are an effective measure that ensure a waste operation:

  • Complies with the 2016 permitting regulations; and
  • Does not harm the environment or human health.

Waste exemptions also allow the EA to monitor waste activities at different organisations without requiring the organisation have a full permit.

There are multiple waste exemptions available that cover the treatment (T), use (U), disposal (D) and storage (S) of waste. Some of the most common waste exemptions are listed in Table 1 (a full list is available on the EA’s Guidance for Waste Exemptions).

Table 1. Common Waste Exemptions

Waste Activity Waste Exemption
U1 Using waste in construction
T4 Preparatory treatments such as bailing, sorting, shredding
T5 Screening and blending
T10 Sorting mixed waste
S1 Storing waste in secure containers
S2 Storing waste in a secure place

Each waste exemption is associated with different limits and conditions. For example, an S1 waste exemption only allows the storage of certain types of wastes and requires that no waste is stored for more than 12 months. Failure to follow to the limits and conditions indicates that your organisation should apply for an environmental permit.

To ensure that your organisation is adhering to the limits and conditions, it is advised that a monitoring / measuring programme is implemented to capture the appropriate data. If the EA query the waste exemptions registered at your organisation, a monitoring / measuring programme is an excellent tool to prove compliance.

It is important to note that you cannot combine multiple exemptions to skirt the cost of applying for and obtaining an environmental permit. The EA will issue fines for operating outside limits of any waste exemption (Waste Operator Fined for Illegal Waste Disposal in Devon Countryside).


Registering a waste exemption is completely free (with the exception of T11 WEEE exemption costs £1,221), takes less than 30 minutes and can be completed online. Each waste exemption is valid for 3 years and will need to be renewed a month before it expires.

Has your organisation registered its waste exemptions? 


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