Changes to waste exemptions

Changes are coming to waste exemptions in England & Wales. If you currently operate a waste activity under an exemption, you’ll need to understand how these changes will affect you, and importantly – how to prepare. In short, some operators will need to get an environmental permit, change their activities, or stop them completely. Consultant Rayan Stanislaus from The Compliance People gives you a summary of what to expect. 

Firstly, why is it changing?

The changes stem from responses to a consultation published in 2018 by Defra and the Welsh Government on proposals to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector. The consultation looked at how waste exemptions can be changed to prevent people from abusing the system to carry out illegal activities.  

Currently, the Waste Exemption Regime allows some low-risk activities to be carried out on a registration system and be exempt from the requirement to hold an environmental permit. This Regime is set out within The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (EPR). 

What are the changes?

Following the consultation, Defra has published details of the changes to this regime in their supplementary Government response and annexes. We expect these changes to come into effect in April 2024, but this date may change as it based on Government estimates. There are general changes to the Waste Exemption Regime and also changes to specific waste exemptions. 

The general changes to the Waste Exemption Regime are as follows. 

  • The use of exemptions at/adjacent to permitted sites will be prohibited.  
  • Waste exemptions will not be able to be registered at sites with a direct link* to an installation or permitted waste site.  
  • S1 and S2 exemptions will be prohibited from being registered at a site where there is a direct link to any other waste exemption.  
  • Operators must keep general electronic records relating to waste exemption activities. 

*Direct link means where an exempted waste activity: 

  • is carried out on adjacent to a permitted waste operation; and 
  • is carried out under the control of the same operator; or 
  • uses the same staff, equipment, or infrastructure as used in an exempted waste activity 

Waste exemptions to be removed

The following waste exemptions will be removed, and operators will need to carry out activities under an environmental permit or stop the activities completely. The transition period for these changes is 3 months.

Changes to specific waste exemption conditions

Specific waste exemptions will have their conditions changed. There will be a transitional period for each of these waste exemptions after the EPR changes come into effect, giving operators time to adjust. Within these periods, you must make changes to your activities to ensure compliance, apply for the appropriate permit, or stop the waste activity.

Detailed information on all the changes is published in Defra’s supplementary Government response and annexes.

The tables below give a summary of the changes to specific waste exemptions and transition periods (it may worthwhile saving it, as it will come in handy later).

Exemptions Condition changes Transition period
U1 – Use of waste in construction
  • The name will change to ‘Use of wastes to construct and maintain surfaces and barriers’.
  • Waste type, quantities and activities for certain construction activities will be restricted.
12 months
T4 – Preparatory treatments, such as, baling, sorting, shredding
  • The name will change to ‘Preparatory treatment of waste.’
  • Storage limits will be reduced and conditions for specific waste types will be changed.
  • The general conditions will be changed to reduce fire risk.
6 months
T6 – Treating waste woods and waste plant matter by chipping, shredding, cutting, or pulverising
  • The name will change to ‘Treatment of waste wood and plant matter’.
  • Storage limits will be reduced and conditions for specific waste types will be changed.


6 months
T12 – Manually treating waste
  • Stricter conditions will be introduced. More details are found in Annex 4.
6 months
D7 – Burning waste in the open
  • The name will change to ‘Burning vegetation at the site of production’.
  • The storage time limits and conditions will be adjusted, more details ae found in Annex 5.
  • Certain types of waste will be removed.
6 months


  • ·Will be renamed and reformed to better reflect the materials stored under them. More details are found in Annex 6.
  • These will not be able to be registered at a site where there is a direct link to any other waste exemption.
12 months







Next steps

It is best to review your registered waste exemption(s) against the Government’s guidance. You can find details of your current waste exemption(s) on the Government’s public register. The Environment Act 2021 gives regulators powers to amend certain exemption conditions without amending legislation, so we can expect future changes to the Waste Exemption Regime.

In the meantime, we will keep you updated on everything you need to know about the changes to waste exemptions. If you’re struggling to wrap your head around these changes, our consultants are happy to support you to ensure your organisation remains compliant with all environmental permitting requirements.