Do you need a waste transfer license?

rubbish skip sitting in an industrial park

If you transport rubbish, then the answer’s probably yes

It’s a fact of life. From the truckloads of rubble that construction companies leave behind, to the waste paper baskets of small offices, all businesses produce rubbish

The hard part is getting rid of it. 

That’s right: unless you outsource your business’ rubbish collection, you’ll need a special type of permit to transport waste – even if it’s not yours. 

This permit is called a waste carrier (or transfer) license, and it applies to all businesses and tradespeople in the UK. It doesn’t matter whether the commercial waste is yours, or if you’ve just been hired to get rid of it – either way, you’ll need a license to transport it.

So, what is a waste carrier license? Do you need one, and if so, how do you get one? And better still, is there an alternative? Read on to find out.

Man in a hard hat disposing waste into skip

Applying for a waste transfer license is an important step for your business – don’t skip it!

What is a waste carrier license?

Waste carrier licenses were introduced into British law in January 2014. They’re a mandatory requirement for anyone in the UK that moves rubbish from one point to another. Waste carrier licenses are issued and managed by the Environment Agency (EA).

It’s not just companies with big trucks transporting tonnes of waste that need these waste carrier licenses. Tradesmen managing their own rubbish transport and disposal also need one, too. 

The bottom line? If you transport anything that you – or, more importantly, the government – would classify as rubbish, then you need a waste carrier license. It’s the law.

But why?

Why do you need a waste carrier license?

Waste carrier licenses were introduced to help make our cities greener, and reduce the harmful effects of fly-tipping on our communities. Waste carrier licenses help make sure that any businesses moving or disposing of rubbish are doing so legally.

Moral considerations aside, there’s another good reason you shouldn’t flout having a waste carrier license – fines!

Being caught transporting rubbish without a waste carrier license comes with a fine of up to £5,000. And claiming unawareness of the license won’t save you, either – a Bradford shopfitter was once fined £3,116.80 after waste carpets were found in his vehicle.

Don’t underestimate the government’s commitment to cracking down on illegal waste transfer. Why? Ask the London-based roofer who was fined £300 for driving around with a bin bag full of crisp packets in the back of his van. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you want to apply or not. But when it costs just £154 to get one, and the fines can be more than 32 times that amount, we reckon it’s a no-brainer.

So just how do you apply?

Registered waste carrier showing their license

Salt and Bin-egar: Don’t let a few packets of crisps in your van cost you – remember to apply for a waste carrier license 

How do you get a waste carrier license?

To get a waste carrier license, you can apply online via the government’s website. When that’s done, your business will appear in the public register of waste carriers, brokers, and dealers.

To register, you’ll need the names and dates of birth of your business’ owners, executives, directors, or partners. You’ll also need details of any environmental offences they’ve committed (a condition which we hope won’t apply!).

There are two types of waste carrier license you can apply for The one you require will depend on what kind of business you run, and the nature of the waste you transport and dispose of.  Let’s take a look.

Lower tier

Your business will be lower tier if you:

  • Only carry waste you produce in the course of running your business (unless it’s demolition or construction waste)
  • Only deal with animal by-products, waste from mines and quarries, or waste from agricultural premises
  • Are a charity organisation

Waste collection, disposal, or regulation authorities may also qualify as lower tier carriers. A lower tier waste collection license is free, and lasts indefinitely.

Higher tier

If none of the above applies to you, chances are your business belongs to the higher tier. Some examples of higher tier operations are if your business:

  • Moves other people’s waste, such as a skip company
  • Carries demolition and construction waste
  • Arranges for the recovery, transport, or disposal of waste from other businesses
  • Buys or sells waste, either directly or through an agent

As you’ve probably guessed by now, each tier comes with different pricing. So how much can your business expect to pay?

How much does a waste carrier license cost?

There are three key costs involved in procuring a waste carrier license.

1. Registration

If you only transport waste you produce yourself (think of the guy with the crisp packets), then registration is usually free. If this isn’t the case, registering for a waste carrier license will set you back a crisp £154. 

2. Renewal

Lower tier registrations don’t need to be renewed. If your business falls into the higher tier classification, though, you’ll need to renew every three years. This costs £105

3. Updates to your business information

If your business’ contact details or management change – or if someone there is convicted of an environmental offence – then you’ll need to update your registration. This needs to be done within 28 days of either event.

You’ll also need to update your registration if your business changes what it does – this costs £40.

Upgrading your registration from a lower tier to an upper tier incurs a fee of £154. It’s particularly important to do this if what you do with waste has changed. If you used to carry waste, for example, but now want to deal in the buying and selling of it, you’d need to upgrade.

If you’re already thinking that the above seems a little pricey, and more than a little complicated, you’re not alone. But it is the law…

Or is there an alternative?

Is there an alternative?

As it turns out, yes there is! 

Commercial waste brokers such as WasteManaged can help simplify the handling of your business’ waste. These companies don’t just get rid of your rubbish for you – they roll up the myriad, confusing costs that come with waste transport and disposal into one straightforward fee. 

And because these waste management companies handle everything, you won’t need to worry about applying (and paying!) for a waste carrier license

What’s more, you’ll have a greener, easier, and legally compliant solution to removing and transporting your commercial waste. And the crisp-loving tradesmen of the UK can rest easy. 

If you’re interested in learning more about using a commercial waste broker, we can help. Simply complete our quick quote-finding form (it takes less than a minute), and you’ll receive quotes from several leading waste management companies for small businesses.

Alternatively, click one of the icons below to get started. We’ll ask you a few brief questions about your business, and the kind of waste you produce. This means your quotes will be tailored to the unique needs of your trade. Oh, and the whole service is completely free. What have you got to lose?

Get Waste Management Quotes Tailored To Your Business – Start Here

What type of waste management do you need?

Written by:
Rob Binns
Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.
Reviewed by:
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor
Heleana Neil specialises in Business Services, managing the strategy and production of content for SMBs, helping businesses with the challenges and opportunities they face today. Covering everything from payroll to payment processing, Heleana uses her expertise to help business owners make better, informed decisions and grow their companies.