Waste classification and the European List of Waste

Waste classification is based on two factors, determining whether a waste is hazardous or not, through Annex III to the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC  which lists ‘Properties of Waste which render it Hazardous’ and identifying an appropriate classification code from the European List of Waste (LoW) (Commission Decision 2000/532/EC).

The LoW is the main document for the classification of waste and it is revised periodically to adapt it to scientific progress and align it with developments in chemical legislation. The LoW provides common terminology (EWC codes) at an EU-level to simplify waste management, and such codes are used, amongst others, for the transport of waste, installation permits or as a basis for waste statistics.

Flow chart describing terminology of List of Waste

The LoW is categorised into chapters, sub-chapters and entries, describing waste arising from different types of activity. If the waste in question, has not arisen from the activity covered by a particular Chapter, the EWC code should not be used, even if the individual description seems to be the most appropriate. Waste streams classified according to the LoW would be assigned a six digit number. The entries in the LoW can be categorised into:

• Absolute hazardous entries;
• Absolute non-hazardous entries; and
• Mirror entries.

Absolute hazardous entries

Wastes which are assigned to absolute hazardous entries cannot be allocated to non-hazardous entries and are hazardous without any further assessment and the entry is marked with an asterisk(*). Although no further assessment is necessary to classify the waste, it may still be necessary to assess which hazardous properties the waste displays, if required for the fulfilment of correct labelling of hazardous waste.

Absolute non-hazardous entries

Wastes which are assigned to absolute non-hazardous entries cannot be allocated to hazardous entries and are non-hazardous without any further assessment;

Mirror entries

Where waste from the same source might, under the LoW be allocated to a hazardous entry or to a non-hazardous entry depending on the specific case and on the composition of the waste. Further assessment would be required to determine whether the waste is to be assigned the hazardous mirror entry, or the non-hazardous mirror entry.

The following steps should be followed when choosing an EWC code from the LoW:

Step 1: Chapters related to waste source

Consider chapters 01 to 12 and 17 to 20 (excluding general entries ending with 99) which identify a waste by referring to its source or industrial sector of origin. If no appropriate waste code can be found, move to Step 2.

Step 2: Chapters related to waste type

Consider chapters 13 to 15 (excluding general entries ending with 99) which are related to the nature of the waste itself. If none of the waste codes apply, move to Step 3.

Step 3: Chapter for waste not otherwise specified in the list

Consider chapter 16 (excluding general entries ending with 99) which represents a varied set of waste streams which cannot be otherwise specifically related to a given process or sector. If the waste cannot be reasonably allocated to any of the entries in chapter 16, move to Step 4.

Step 4:

A suitable 99 (waste not otherwise specified) must be found from the appropriate chapter identified in Step 1.

Flow chart showing how to identify an EWC code

Standard Terms of Reference for the classification of waste using the European List of Waste may be found here.

General Terms of Reference to determine the nature of waste may be found here .

Further information on the classification of waste and the European List of Waste may be found here.

Technical guidance on the classification of waste from the European Commission may be found here: 2018/C 124/01