Meaning of waste—definition of waste
Meaning of waste—definition of waste

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Meaning of waste—definition of waste
  • Brexit impact
  • Interpretation
  • Key terms
  • Discard
  • Definition of waste service

'Waste' is defined in the Waste Framework Directive 2008 (rWFD) as any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard.

See Practice Note: Meaning of waste—what is waste?

Brexit impact

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this content.

For further guidance, see: Brexit—environmental law implications and Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources.


Waste must not be interpreted restrictively. It is interpreted:

  1. widely in light of all the circumstances

  2. having regard to the aims of the directive, eg to protect human health and the environment against the harmful effects of waste

  3. having regard to the need to ensure the effectiveness of the directive is not undermined

Whether or not a substance or object is waste depends on the factual circumstances and decisions must be taken on a case-by-case basis. No single factor or indicator is conclusive. See Practice Note: Meaning of waste—waste indicators.

Distinctions are made between:

  1. products which are not waste and production residues which may be waste

  2. production residues which are waste and by-products which are not

See Practice Note: Meaning of waste—products and by-products.