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Jargon Buster Directory  

The Central Source for all Jargon

Government - Waste

Waste Jargon - it all started when bin men were re-named waste collection technicians. We all now need to be more responsible for our own waste and a new 'waste' science has now evolved.

Waste jargon now identifies types of waste into ever increasing parts that we now need to place in predefined receptacles at our homes. One bin is no longer enough - we now have three or four bins to be placed outside our homes on set days.

Perhaps the next step is to get rid of all the bin men altogether and we will all drive up to the tip ourselves to dispose of our own rubbish individually.

Yet again the mix of central government, local government and motivated minorities have placed further burdens on us to understand yet more waste jargon and it is getting worse.

Soon we will all need a degree in bio-science to understand which bin to put out and many small cottage gardens will be swamped with a variety of coloured plastic bins replacing the equally ugly gnomes that used to frequent the lawns.


Waste Jargon

Act of Parliament

Formal documentation of statute law in the United Kingdom.

Active wastes

Wastes that undergo significant physical, chemical or biological transformations when deposited in a waste landfill.


Relating to or requiring free oxygen.

Aerobic process

A process that depends on microorganisms which requires free oxygen or air for their metabolism.


Normally loose sand or stone material, often used to make cement or in construction in general (such as road resurfacing). Primary or virgin aggregate is newly extracted material. Secondary aggregate is material that has been used previously and recycled or recovered.


Living or taking place in the absence of free oxygen.

Anaerobic digestion

The biological breakdown of organic material in the absence of oxygen.

Anaerobic process/digestion

A process that depends on micro-organisms that do not require, or require the absence of, free oxygen or air for their metabolism.


Usually referred to as "waste arisings", it means the amount of waste generated, or entering the waste management regime.


A system of sterilisation using steam under pressure.


A baseline level, against which any subsequent results or figures can be compared. Often used as a standard or starting point for legislative targets relating to environmental performance: For example, the European Landfill Directive uses 1995 landfill figures as a baseline.

Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO)

Procedure establishing the management option that most benefits or imposes the least damage to the environment, at acceptable cost, both in the long and short term.

Best value

The process that replaces compulsory competitive tendering, the procedure by which local authorities contract service provision.


The uptake and storage of increasing quantities of substances by living tissue.


Susceptible to degradation, usually by microorganisms, leading to the release of heat, carbon dioxide and organic residues, as well as methane.


A biological reactor where polluted air can be biologically treated by passing it through a packed bed of compost, wood chips, activated carbon etc, in which micro-organisms can absorb and degrade vapour pollutants.


Gas produced by the decomposition of any biodegradable materials, especially from landfill sites. Often used as a fuel source for energy production.


A biological agent that is hazardous to human health.

Brown goods

Large electrical and electronic items such as TVs, video and audio equipment.

Brownfield site

Site where use and redevelopment is complicated by past use.

Civic amenity site

A site provided by the local authority for the public to dispose of household waste that cannot be collected by normal services.

Clinical waste

Any waste which consists wholly or partly of: blood or other bodily fluids; drugs or other pharmaceutical products; excretions; human or animal tissue; swabs or dressings; and syringes, needles or other sharp instruments which unless made safe may be hazardous to anybody who comes in contact with it.


The disposal of more than one category of waste in the same landfill site, usually a range of industrial wastes with biodegradable municipal wastes, such that the industrial wastes undergo gradual transformation into less hazardous forms.


Comingled waste is unsorted waste. This can be either unsorted recyclable material, such as glass, cans, paper or general waste. Often used in conjunction with descriptions of MRFs.


Stabilised residue produced by the aerobic biological degradation of organic material in waste, often used as a fertilizer for growing plants.

Compulsory competitive tendering

A process for ensuring that the local authority provides an efficient waste disposal service that takes into account value for money, as well as environmental and public health factors.

Controlled waste

As defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990, any waste arising from industrial, commercial or domestic sources, including sewage sludge disposed of to landfill and by incineration (but not including waste from mines, quarries or agricultural premises).


Recycled broken glass or waste glass used in glass making.


Various organic pollutants resulting from the manufacture of certain herbicides and bactericides, and often arising as a consequence of the incomplete combustion of waste. Dioxins are extremely toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative.

Diversion rate

The amount of waste diverted from landfill/incineration, to be recovered through recycling, composting or energy from waste.

Duty of Care

Legislatory concept ensuring that waste is safely stored, handled and transported by authorised operators, and requiring that waste producers pass waste on to such operators.

Energy from waste

The process of using waste to produce energy, either directly through incineration, or via gas collection, through the capture of methane from landfill sites.

Environmental Body (EB)

Organisation registered by ENTRUST to receive money from landfill operators to carry out environmental projects.

EU Directive

Main form of secondary legislation of the European Union (EU), setting objectives and deadlines, which should be implemented by Member States.

EU Regulation

Form of secondary legislation of the EU, which is directly applicable and therefore needs no UK enabling legislation.

Feedstock recycling

A chemical process to convert plastic waste into its original hydrocarbon state for reintroduction into the plastics process.


The deliberate and illegal dumping of rubbish in an unauthorised place.

Green Paper

Government document containing policy proposals to be discussed by Parliament.

Gross Domestic Product

Total value of goods and services produced by a country in one year.

Hazardous waste

Controlled waste that is special as defined in the Special Waste Regulations and under the Hazardous Waste Directive. Refers to waste containing a hazardous substance in a quantity liable to cause harm to humans and the environment if improperly handled, treated or disposed of.

Heavy metal

A metal of relatively high density or atomic weight with potential for toxicity. The most widespread of concern to human health are mercury, cadmium and lead.

High performance coatings

A coating that is required to meet very exacting standards, over and above that required for normal materials (e.g. exposure to severe weather conditions).

Inert wastes

Those wastes that do not undergo any significant physical, chemical or biological transformations when deposited in a waste landfill.

Integrated Pollution Control (IPC)

Framework for the management of pollution, the basis of which is to view the environmental impacts of a process on the air, water and land environment as a whole.

Kerbside scheme

The collection of separated household recyclable materials, usually in a box or bag, from residential areas.


The process of burying waste in specially constructed pits, or landfill sites.

Landfill Directive

A European Directive that places set limits on the amount of biodegradable waste being sent to landfill.

Landfill Tax

The tax imposed on waste disposal authorities and groups that dispose of controlled waste at landfill sites. Introduced on 1 October 1996 at £7 per tonne. The current level is £11 per tonne.

Landfill Tax credit funding

A donation made to a registered Environmental Body by a landfill site operator, which can be used specifically for the funding of approved projects. Landfill site operators can claim back 90 per cent of the donated amount from their landfill tax liability.


Aggregates that have been removed directly from the ground, and are not recycled or secondary.

Local Agenda 21

Local authority adopted policy regarding sustainable management of resources in the community.

Local authority

The governing body of a district, county etc.

Local Authority Waste Disposal Company (LAWDC)

A separate waste disposal company organised by a local authority.

Material Recovery Facility (MRF)

Specialised plant that separates, processes and stores recyclables which have been collected either separately from waste (a 'clean' MRF) or co-mingled with it ('dirty' MRF). Recycled materials are then sent on to reprocessors and any residual material not suitable for processing goes for disposal.


Waste containing high levels of metals, including copper, lead, zinc.

Multi-trip packaging

Packaging which is designed for reuse as opposed to one-trip packaging.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

Waste collected and disposed of by or on behalf of a local authority, consisting mainly of household and commercial waste.

New Chemicals

Those chemicals listed on the EU market since September 1981. Tests must be conducted on new substances and results notified to the authority before they can be commercialised.


Not In My Back Yard. A term originally coined with the media exposure of road protests. The tendency for residents and communities to support the general principle of development, such as landfill sites and incinerators, but object if they are to be built in their locality.

Non-ferrous metal

A metal or mixture of metals not containing iron.

Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation

Provision made under the Electricity Act 1989 requiring all regional electricity companies to take a certain proportion of electricity generated from non-fossil fuel (i.e. waste, wind, wave and hydro-power).


A system used in composting, whereby the green waste is left in long 'open-air' piles that are regularly turned to aid the composting process.

Packaging Recovery Notes

A certificate issued by an accredited reprocessor for packaging material that has been recovered or recycled.


A substance which is added to plastics for pliability.

Polluter pays principle

Principle stating that those who contaminate the environment (i.e. by producing waste) should pay the full costs of their actions.

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)

An aromatic hydrocarbon which is highly toxic and liable to persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms. Also has possible carcinogenic properties.


The chains of molecules that form individual types of plastic.

Primary metals

Metal that has been extracted from the ground for use.

Private Finance Initiative

A system of funding large-scale capital investment projects, such as waste management facilities, that has been set up by the Government. Government provides capital to allow investment in new facilities, private companies then provide resources to operate and manage the facility.

Proximity principle

Principle that waste should be disposed of as closely as possible to where it is produced.


Any waste that can be composted. Usually garden/park (green) waste and kitchen scraps. May also include crop waste from agriculture and paper.


Recycled material that will be used to form new products. This material will normally have undergone some form of treatment e.g. plastic pellets, produced from collected plastic bottles, to be used as feedstock for new products.

Recycling credits

The credits paid by local authorities to schemes collecting household waste specifically for recycling.

Recycling Plan

Document produced by Waste Collection Authority (WCA) that details the arrangements that are appropriate for dealing with waste by separating, bailing or otherwise packaging it for the purpose of recycling it.

Secondary aggregate

Material such as crushed stone or gravel that has been used previously and recycled or recovered.

Secondary battery

A battery that can be recharged a finite number of times.

Secondary metals

Metals that have been recovered or recycled for use in the production of more metal.

Secondary treatment

Removal of dissolved organic matter from sewage.


An organic liquid that evaporates easily at normal temperature and pressure, giving rise to volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions (ETBPP 1996a).

Special waste

Legal definition of hazardous waste making it subject to specific rules about its storage, transport and disposal. A waste is classed as 'special' if it has any of a number of hazardous properties which are defined in certain legislative instruments (i.e. the Special Waste Regulations and the Hazardous Waste Directive).

Statutory instrument

Form of legislation where the power to make specific rules and regulations is delegated from an Act of Parliament, usually to a minister.

Sustainable development

Concept that aims to balance continued economic development and achievement of higher standards of living with the need to protect and enhance the environment, both for today's society and for future generations.

Twin-bin collection scheme

A kerbside collection scheme that uses two bins to collect recoverable materials; usually one bin is for dry recyclables, the second for biodegradable waste to be composted.

Unitary Authority

Local authorities that have the responsibility for both waste collection and disposal.

Waste arisings

Data relating to estimates of waste generation.

Waste Carriers License

License required under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 by anyone transferring or collecting waste.

Waste Disposal Plan

Document produced by the WRA setting out provisions regarding the arrangements needed for the treatment and disposal of household, industrial and commercial waste.

Waste Regulation Authority

The authority responsible for granting waste management licenses, as well as assessing plans for the collection of controlled waste i.e. the Environment Agency in England and Wales.

White goods

Large appliances such as cookers, fridges and washing machines, from domestic and commercial/industrial applications.

White Paper

Official Government report, setting out the Government's policy on a matter that will come before Parliament.





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