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Is it waste?

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This week, the Environment Agency launched a new online self-assessment tool,, which guides companies through the undoubtedly complex regulatory regime governing the definition of waste, in short telling them whether a material is waste or not.

As it is based on English case law, as well as relevant EU legislation, the tool currently only applies in England. However, the EA reports significant interest from other Member States so they hope its adoption will spread across Europe. 

The tool has been part funded by an EU Life Programme called Equal and was developed with Dutch environment ministry. It has two separate tests: one for by-products and the other for end of waste assessments. Companies are required to answer a suite of questions relating to the material, markets and uses, and the associated risks. A user guide and guidance on risk assessment outline in detail the data requirements.

However, it is important to note that Isitwaste? has no regulatory standing. The evaluation does not grant official “end of waste” status.  It is possible to share the outcome of the enquiry with the EA’s Definition of Waste Panel for a more formal decision, if necessary, but the outcome of the enquiry does not guarantee a similar result once scrutinised by the panel.

Nevertheless, the Agency hopes that this tool will give businesses greater confidence in classifying their materials correctly, which in turn would create opportunities for resource efficiency and resource productivity. It is also possible to share assessments with customers and supply chains, which the Agency hopes will engender more confidence in the trade of secondary materials and by-products. But the guidance on risk assessment is technical and complex and may well put some companies, particularly smaller ones, off.

Feedback is still being sought. If you have views, do share with us and the Environment Agency ( We would particularly like to hear how helpful you find it and how easy it is to use. 


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