Insights and developments in remanufacturing and circular economy research, industry, and policy

View all: Blog

Does waste management legislation apply to you?

Lorna Walker from SEPA talks about remanufacturing and whether waste legislation applies

So – your company takes back end of life equipment and breathes new life into it, through a rigorous process of testing, cleaning, dismantling and retesting.  That’s fantastic!  Exactly what we need to see more of if our economy is to become more circular, which it must.  This much is clear.

Less clear, perhaps is whether your activity is a waste management activity, and if so what you need to do to comply.  This is something that SEPA has tried to provide some clarity on, through publication of our guidance document: Reuse activities and Waste Regulation.

Does waste management legislation apply to you?

The key question to ask is, whether there is certainty of reuse of the items, for their original purpose (this is the test which has been established through EU Case law).  If the answer to this is ‘yes’ then the items are not considered to be waste items, and waste controls don’t apply.  If however the answer is ‘no’, then items are considered to be waste, until they have been ‘prepared for reuse’  Preparation for reuse is therefore a waste management activity (more on this below).

But first you might be wondering – how do I decide if there is certainty of reuse?  We’ve tried to provide some guidance here.

First up: If there is no change of ownership of the item, this is an indication that it is not waste.  For instance if you are remanufacturing an item and returning it to it’s original owner; or if you hire or lease items out to customers, and remanufacture them between users.

Next up: If you are accepting or buying end of life items with the intention of remanufacturing them, then there is a degree of uncertainty about whether they will actually go on to be reused, because you don’t know the condition, or history of use.  However you can reduce this uncertainty by carrying out checks on the item prior to accepting it – is it in good condition? is it fully functional? Does it need a repair, and is that repair economically viable? Will that product be able to meet technical requirements for resale? Is there a market for the product?  If you can answer all these questions positively, then you can be pretty certain that the item will go on to be reused, and it is not waste.  However if the answer to any one of these questions is ‘no’, or ‘don’t know’ then the item is considered ‘waste’ until it has been through your process to prepare it for reuse.

OK – so if your activities do involve waste – don’t panic – it doesn’t have to be a huge issue.  The first thing to understand is that you have a legal ‘duty of care’ for these materials, to make sure that they don’t cause harm to the environment, or fall into the wrong hands.  You can find out more about the duty of care here.

If you are preparing products for reuse, then in most cases this will not require a waste management licence – there are a range of exemptions which can be registered with SEPA.  For remanufacturing the most relevant are: no. 14 ‘ the manufacture of finished goods and repair / refurbishment of waste goods’ and no 47 ‘ the repair and/or refurbishment of waste electrical and electronic equipment’.  You need to check the list of exemptions on the SEPA website, check you can meet all the conditions outlined in the exemption, and then register your activity using the on-line form.

If you are importing / exporting waste items, then international laws on Transfrontier shipment apply.  You can find out more about this here.

Finally – and it goes without saying – it’s really important that items are properly protected during transport and storage – if they’re not then this reduces the certainty that they will be reused, and they will be regarded as waste.

I hope that this helps, but recognise that it is a tricky area of law – please read the full guidance document and if you have any queries, please do get in touch with me:   Thanks for reading!