This question, or similar, is one we get asked often and the following answer applies specifically to the UK.

In many cases, hazardous waste will also be dangerous goods, but due to the way in which the hazardous waste regulations and relevant dangerous goods transport regulations work, this is not always the case.

One may also find that certain non hazardous wastes are classed as dangerous goods and some hazardous wastes are not classed as dangerous goods.

There are three main reasons for this.

  • Default classifications.

Various EU directives and regulations are legislated into UK law which give the methodology for the classification of hazardous waste. This methodology is presented in the Environment Agency’s WM3 waste classification technical guidance.

In accordance with this guidance, it is the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) Code which is first used to determine whether a waste is hazardous, non hazardous or requires assessment based on any hazard properties of the waste.

Therefore one may have a waste that is classed as non hazardous because it is covered by an absolute non hazardous entry in the EWC Code system, but which may display a hazard covered by the dangerous goods regulations, and vice versa. An example of this is lithium batteries.

Coded under EWC 16 06 05, an absolute non hazardous entry, lithium batteries are classed as non hazardous waste, but are classed under all transport regulations as dangerous goods.

To further complicate things, for road and sea transport (but not air), ADR/the IMDG Code requires that named entries in the dangerous goods list are transported in accordance with that entry, whilst such substances, e.g. Dichloromethane, may not be classed under the same hazards in accordance with the WM3 hazard assessment criteria.

This is because many hazard assignments under the dangerous goods regulations take into account human experience as well as results form test data.

  • Scope of the regulations

The hazardous waste regulations cover more hazards and levels of hazard than the dangerous goods regulations do.

For example; a waste (that requires hazard property assessment) containing an aquatic chronic 2 pollutant (hazard code H411) will be classed as hazardous waste (ecotoxic HP14) at or above 2.5%, but this degree of hazard does not become classified as dangerous goods via ADR until it is at or above 25%.

Similarly, the dangerous goods regulations, whilst only covering the most dangerous hazards, also cover hazards not covered by the hazardous waste regulations. For example; metal corrosion, radioactivity, and classification as environmentally hazardous due to international convention rather than hazard property (ADR 2.1.3.9).

  • Component concentration thresholds vs. testing

Many dangerous goods hazards are based on testing, whereas WM3, which is based on the EU CLP Regulation that is in turn an incorporation of the UN GHS, in many cases uses thresholds to determine hazardous property assessment.

Whilst the UN is working to harmonise dangerous goods classification criteria with GHS, inconsistencies still exist, particularly for corrosive substances.

Therefore whilst it is possible that a waste may contain corrosive components, especially strong bases or acids, below the hazardous waste assessment thresholds, this will not mean that the waste is not dangerous goods in all cases.

Is my hazardous waste classed as dangerous goods?

The only way to answer this question is to classify hazardous waste in accordance with the hazardous waste regulations and then to classify waste separately in accordance with the relevant dangerous goods regulations for the mode or modes of transport to be used.

When hazard assessment is utilised rather than default classification, a useful cross-hazard summary is provided by GHS Annex 1.

EcoStar Environmental are specialists in the management and classification of hazardous wastes and dangerous goods. We’re always happy to advise on the subject.

We also provide ADR awareness training online which is a legal obligation for those involved in the preparation, handling and transport of dangerous goods by road in the UK and Europe.