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Waste regulations FAQs

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations have been in effect since 1 January 2014.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations require that any and all organisations in Scotland present the following materials for recycling:

  • Glass (including drinks bottles & rinsed empty food jars);
  • Metal (including cans, tins);
  • Plastic (including, drinks bottles & rinsed empty food containers);
  • Paper;
  • Cardboard;
  • Most urban food businesses will need to present food waste separately for collection

Food businesses

Urban food businesses (such as cafés, restaurants or food takeaways) which produce over 5 kg of food waste per week also have to present food waste separately for collection unless excluded by a rural location. 

A food business is defined as “An undertaking, whether for profit or not, and whether public or private, carrying out any activity related to the processing, distribution, preparation or sale of food”. This excludes businesses which only prepare and sell drinks.

When a premises is used to consume food brought from elsewhere e.g. an office where staff bring in food for personal consumption, are not regarded as food businesses. However, a staff canteen where food is prepared, sold and consumed is classed as a food business. The following type of organisations are likely to be affected by the Regulations; hotels, restaurants, cafés, shopping centre food courts, canteens, public houses or shops that serve food, supermarkets, schools and colleges with canteens, prisons, nursing homes and hospitals.

Use the postcode finder tool to see whether your business area is considered to be rural or non-rural.

There is further information on how to be compliant available.  Case studies will provide some inspiration about how other organisations manage their recycling.

There are also resources for your business available online including the Re-use and Recycling Directory, the Recycle for Scotland poster creator to help you label your bins, a webinar on how to encourage staff to recycle properly and seven-step procurement process for ‘getting the best waste management solution for your organisation’.


Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the regulations including answers for sectors and food businesses.

Do the Waste (Scotland) Regulations apply to me?

Yes - all business and organisations in Scotland must present the following materials for recycling (if generated):

  • Glass (including drinks bottles and rinsed food jars);
  • Metal (including rinsed cans and tins);
  • Plastic (including drinks bottles and rinsed food containers);
  • Paper;
  • Cardboard.

Food businesses (such as cafés, restaurants & other premises preparing or selling food) which produce over 50kg of food waste per week (dropping to 5 kg food waste per week from 1 January 2016) also have to present food waste separately for collection unless excluded by a rural location. Check using the rural postcode finder

Your waste management contractor will be able to provide advice on how to present material for collection and to avoid contamination.

What will happen if I don't comply with the Waste Regulations?

Persistent non-compliance will be addressed through local authority or SEPA duty of care enforcement procedures (dependent upon the regulating authority). Any person who fails without reasonable excuse to comply with the duties imposed above shall be liable:

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (£10,000); and 

(b) on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine.

How do I find a waste contractor/recycling service?

There is a wide range of Scottish waste management services available via the Recycling & Reuse Directory http://directory.resourceefficientscotland.com/

Can I work with other businesses to comply with the Waste (Scotland) Regulations?

Yes, sharing waste services may be cost-effective and reduce storage space requirements. However, appropriate arrangements are required to ensure the secure storage, authorised transfer and further management of the material from shared facilities to comply with Duty of Care responsibilities. These may be developed in a bespoke manner to suit individual circumstances.

My landlord takes care of my waste arrangements. Do I have any responsibility?

Yes. You are a waste producer and will need to meet the regulations. Your landlord should advise you about how to present your waste for collection if you rent a serviced office or a property run by a commercial property manager.

How can I be certain that my waste will be recycled?

Since 1 January 2014, waste managers are prohibited by law, from mixing your separately collected recyclable waste with other wastes and from sending it to incineration or landfill. This ensures that the effort you put into separating your waste will not be wasted.

If you hand waste to a carrier, and you suspect that your separately collected recyclables are being fly-tipped or are going to an incinerator or landfill, it is your responsibility to inform SEPA through their 24 hour pollution hotline – 0800 80 70 60. You can also use Crimestoppers’ anonymous online report form.

What paperwork do I need for managing my waste?

You will need a waste transfer note that will describe your waste and accompany it when it is passed on to your waste contractor. This is your evidence that the waste was passed on and that it was adequately described.

WTNs ensure that there is a clear audit trail from when the waste is produced until it is disposed of. You must keep copies of all your WTNs for at least two years.

A ‘season ticket’ system can be used for waste of the same description (same materials) transferred from the same waste producer to the same transferee for a period up to 12 months. This prevents the need for a transfer note to be produced for every waste load transferred.

A waste transfer note typically consists of four parts:

A description of the waste and the quantity that is to be collected

Your details (name, address etc.)

The details of the person you are handing your waste to. You will need to include name, address and any registration numbers applicable (e.g. waste carrier’s registration number).

Details of the transfer (place, date, time)." And the EWC codes/descriptions for several common materials. 

What is the role of our facilities management (FM) company with regard to waste management?

The FM company may organise waste management services for the whole property. Arrangements should be reviewed periodically. Adequate arrangements are required for storage, authorised transfer and management of materials to comply with Duty of Care responsibilities. 

How should I store my waste?

You should store your waste in a safe and secure place, so that waste materials will not cause litter or attract vermin. 

If my waste is managed by a contractor, who is responsible for ensuring that appropriate action is taken to comply with the Regulations?

Both the producer of the waste and the waste contractor have responsibilities. Using a waste contractor does not remove any of the responsibilities. It will be your responsibility to work with the contractor to ensure that both your requirements are being met.

My business is based outside Scotland but has premises in Scotland. Am I affected by the Waste (Scotland) Regulations?

Your business premises in Scotland will all fall under the Regulations.

Do the Waste (Scotland) Regulations apply offshore?

The requirement to recycle duty from the Waste (Scotland) Regulation 2012 does not apply to offshore facilities or vessels but does apply when the waste is brought onshore.

In practice, this means that once the material is brought to the mainland the waste manager has a duty to manage it in a way that promotes high-quality recycling (dependent, of course, upon the materials’ state of segregation).

SEPA advises that it is good practice to configure waste systems that are landed into Scottish Ports in a way that allows high-quality recycling. 

How can I ensure that my employees all comply with the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations?

Train your staff and make sure they know how to recycle in the workplace. Label bins stating clearly what should be recycled and ensure staff know what goes where. Use the free online poster creator tool to help staff to recycle effectively.

How will Regulations impact ‘Recycling on the Go’?

On-street litter bins and recycling facilities are not included in the Regulations.

Organisations are welcome to make use of the Recycle on the Go brand which has been

consumer researched and tested, and is becoming commonplace.

What happens if I have concerns about what is happening to my waste once my waste collector/contractor has picked it up?

If you suspect that your waste is being handled illegally by your waste contractor, it is your responsibility to inform SEPA via zerowaste@sepa.org.uk or through their 24-hour pollution hotline – 0800 80 70 60. You can also use Crimestoppers’ anonymous online report form. 

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