Daniel Groves


Understanding the difference between offensive and hazardous waste is critical. It’s illegal to mix hazardous waste with any other type of waste material, so knowing how different items and materials are classified is essential, and a legal requirement, when it comes to disposing of waste properly and safely. With waste from the pandemic a common issue for businesses now, everyone has a responsibility to know what to do with waste products. 

What’s Deemed Offensive Waste?

Offensive waste is a type of waste that’s non-hazardous but could be unpleasant to deal with. It’s not likely to pose harm to someone who comes into contact with offensive waste, but it could be unhygienic or unsanitary. For example, PPE can be classified as offensive waste, along with healthcare waste like used dressings or items contaminated with bodily fluids, such as nappies or incontinence pads.  

Because of the nature of offensive waste, it can’t be disposed of in general waste bins with regular household rubbish. PPE can be disposed of in landfills, but it can’t be collected by general waste collection vehicles, so it needs to be separated. 

Throughout the pandemic, PPE and waste accumulated from testing kits have been categorized as offensive and non-hazardous, but they still need to be handled in the right way to minimise the threat of spreading germs and the virus. In these instances, testing kits and used PPE needs to be stored separately before being disposed of at specialist facilities where they can be incinerated safely. 

What is Hazardous Waste?

Conversely to offensive waste, hazardous waste can pose a health and safety risk to the individual handling it or the environment once it’s been disposed of, so making sure it’s been removed safely is vital. There are specialist facilities that can identify the waste and handle it properly. 

Priority Weee outline what constitutes hazardous waste, explaining that it’s far more than just chemicals: “hazardous waste includes items such as fridges, batteries, print toner, aerosols and cleaning chemicals, along with more obvious examples such as solvents, adhesives, paints and industrial chemicals. Even empty containers of these items are considered a hazard”. 

What’s the Impact of Disposing of Waste Incorrectly?

On the surface, it might appear as though offensive and hazardous waste are alike. But from a legal, economic and environmental standpoint, they differ considerably. For this reason, businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the waste they accumulate is evaluated thoroughly and disposed of accordingly. 

Waste can be offensive but not necessarily hazardous, such as soiled healthcare waste, which doesn’t pose a threat to human or environmental health but may not be the most pleasant to deal with. General household waste, bathroom rubbish and business industrial waste can also be categorised as non-hazardous in many cases. 

Hazardous waste needs to be classified accurately though. The Hazardous Waste List is continually updated, and new codes are assigned so that those individuals disposing of this type of waste can detail the waste correctly. But it’s worth noting that it’s not just businesses that are responsible – household hazardous wastes are also included, such as corrosives, chemical-based items, pesticides and electrical items such as car batteries, TVs and computer monitors and refrigerators and freezers. In these cases, the items need to be brought to your local waste recycling centre to be sorted and disposed of in the right way. 

 Where businesses are concerned, the waste needs to be stored and disposed of with consignment notes and records kept for a minimum of three years. There are various industries and sectors which could be responsible for hazardous waste, such as construction businesses, agricultural companies and industrial firms. 

Anything from automotive oils and bituminous coal tar products to asbestos, treated wood, unused medicines and syringes, or pesticides can all be classified as hazardous as they pose a significant risk to human and environmental health. If they’re not disposed of in the right way, not only are businesses at risk of hefty fines and reputational damage but there’s also the risk that the waste could cause injury or illness to those dealing with it, or that it could have negative effects on wildlife and ecosystems.

Final thoughts

To keep the general public and our surrounding environments safe, it’s essential that we all do our bit to adhere to the correct waste disposal rules and guidelines. Offensive and hazardous waste may seem closely connected, but they can have considerably different effects on people and the planet, so understanding the difference is imperative.

Daniel Groves achieved a 1st class honours degree in Business Economics. Since graduating, Daniel has collaborated with a number of online publications to further develop his knowledge and share his experience with like-minded entrepreneurs, business owners and growth strategists.