The European Waste Catalogue is a hierarchical list of waste description produced by the EU, originating from Decision 2000/532/EC. It is a legal requirement to include the correct EWC code on duty of care and hazardous waste paperwork, and although this system has been in place in the UK for many years we still, on a regular basis see the misclassification of waste types. As well as being essential for duty of care and hazardous waste paperwork it is also used for restricting Waste Management Licence exemptions to certain waste types and it will also be used for the forthcoming landfill ban as a first step to defining whether waste is biodegradable or not. Interestingly Revenue Scotland (and HMRC) use a separate set of criteria and do not use EWC for waste classifications for tax purposes.

So, what are the common issues with deciding on which EWC code to use?

The EWC is a hierarchical list of waste descriptions divided into twenty main chapters each of which has a two-digit code between 01 and 20. Most of the chapters relate to industry but some are based on materials and processes. Individual wastes within each chapter are assigned a six-figure code. The descriptions and codes within the EWC are a suitable part of the description of your waste so as to comply with your duty of care. Correct order – defining an EWC for your waste type should follow the following order and process:

  • Chapters 01 to 12 and 17 to 20 first
  • Then chapters 13, 14 and 15
  • Then chapter 16
  • If no suitable code then use the most suitable code ending in 99 from chapters 01 to 12 and 17 to 20 should be used.

Separately collected packaging – separately collected packaging waste, including mixtures of different packaging waste materials should be classified under 15 01 and not 20 01. This includes most dry mixed recyclate (DMR) waste streams

Waste Management Facility – waste which passes through a waste management facility should be coded under chapter 19

Mirror Entries – can be either hazardous or non-hazardous. To determine the correct entry a waste classification assessment using Joint Industry Guidance of the Classification and Assessment of Waste (1st Edition v1.1) Technical Guidance WM3 is required. As part of this assessment, waste holders have a duty to determine the chemical composition of the waste and to assess the hazardous properties of the waste. This cannot be done by undertaking WAC testing, which can still be a common misconception!  

Most organisations only produce a small number of waste types but it is still important that the correct EWC code is provided to staff and customers. Our REHIS Introduction to Waste Management one day course and REHIS Working with Waste Management Legislation two-day course cover this aspect in detail. As the course progresses delegates become more and more confident in the identification of the correct EWC code, giving them the confidence to identify the correct codes in their workplace. For more information on courses please contact John MacSwan or visit out website

For guidance on the classification and assessment of waste see the waste classification technical guidance or for an informal chat about how Albion can help you please contact Andrew Howlett

Not sure about an EWC code for a waste type?

We are always happy to take on an “EWC challenge” if you cannot agree over the correct EWC code!!

Contact us on mailto: info@albion-environmental.co.uk