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Everything You Need to Know About Waste Classification

Sep 6, 2023 | Waste Management

We understand that waste can be challenging to deal with, especially the more technical aspects, such as waste classification. This blog aims to help clear up any confusion surrounding waste classification and highlight the correct processes that we all need to follow. 

Why is waste classification important?

Classification allows us to identify what exactly is in the waste, so it can be processed appropriately and has the best chance to be reused or reprocessed to create high-quality recycled products. Regulators can then get an idea of what types of waste are being generated and how they are disposed of or recirculated back into use. It also allows us to separate hazardous materials that could pose a risk to public health or the environment from non-hazardous materials. 

The Duty of Care in Scotland is the overarching regulation to follow when considering our waste responsibilities. Classifying your waste is required as part of the Duty of Care, and to make sure your waste is managed appropriately. Classification also allows you to establish the waste’s EWC code. 

What is an EWC code and how do I assign it to my waste?

An EWC code refers to the European Waste Catalogue, a list established by the European Commission. This is where wastes are categorized based on a combination of what they are, and the process or activity that produces them. The EWC distinguishes between hazardous and non-hazardous wastes and is divided into 20 chapters. 

Individual waste types are given a six-digit code. The first two digits specify the chapter, the next two indicate the subchapter, and the last two are specific to the waste type. Hazardous wastes are highlighted with the code being marked by an asterisk (*). Below is one of the most common examples for CDE:

EWC code waste classification

To assign the correct code to your waste you will need to know the following information: 

  • The type of business that produced the waste. 
  • Where the waste was generated (the process or activity that produced it). 
  • A clear, full description of the waste. 
  • If it is hazardous waste (guidance on how to deal with hazardous waste can be found in Technical Guidance WM3). 

Correct EWC coding on its own is not enough to fully describe the waste. A clear and accurate written description on the Waste Transfer Note (WTN) is needed to ensure safe onward management in the next stage.  

A mis-description of waste can cause problems at the receiving site. For example, inert landfills and (most) recycling facilities are not designed to accept hazardous waste or mixed construction and demolition waste contaminated with a range of materials. 


We hope this overview has helped to demystify some of the common questions surrounding waste classification. If you produce, manage or regulate waste, SEPA offers detailed guidance that can help you with classifying your waste. Brewster Brothers’ blog on WM3 also provides a step-by-step overview. 

Our team are always happy to help customers with questions about waste classifications and signpost them to the appropriate resources. If you’re looking for more technical guidance or training, then we recommend contacting Albion Environmental who are experts on all things waste.