Anaerobic digestion – this is the biological degradation of organics in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas (typical composition of 65 per cent methane and 35 per cent CO2) and residue (digestate) suitable for use as a soil improver.

Biodegradable waste – is defined in Council Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste as meaning any waste that is capable of undergoing anaerobic or aerobic decomposition, such as organic kitchen and green garden waste, and paper and paperboard. A proportion of textiles is deemed to be biodegradable for the purpose of implementing the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) – see definition.

Carbon dioxide – is a naturally occurring gas comprising 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. It is essential to photosynthesis in plants and is also a prominent greenhouse gas. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal or gas, and some waste materials including plastics, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is currently the predominant scientific opinion that carbon dioxide emissions are the main cause of global warming, contributing to climate change.

Carbon dioxideequivalent – is the universal unit of measurement used to indicate the global warming potential (GWP) of greenhouse gases. It is used to evaluate the impacts of releasing (or avoiding the release of) different greenhouse gases. For example, the GWP of methane is 25 times that of CO2, which has a GWP of 1. A CO2–equivalent figure is used to represent the warming impact of greenhouse gases. See also definition of Global Warming Potential.

Composting – this is the biological degradation of organic materials, such as garden and kitchen waste, in the presence of oxygen producing gas and residue suitable for use as a soil improver (see anaerobic digestion, central composting and home composting).

Digestate and residue – The nutrient–rich residues of anaerobic digestion that can be used as a soil improver or fertiliser

Energy recovery – the recovery of useful energy in the form of heat and/or electric power from waste. Includes combined heat and power, combustion of landfill gas and gas produced during anaerobic digestion. Energy recovery technologies include mass burn incineration, incineration, gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion.

Energy recovery from waste (EfW) – includes a number of established and emerging technologies, though most energy recovery is through incineration technologies. Many wastes are combustible, with relatively high calorific values – this energy can be recovered through (for instances) incineration with electricity generation.

FOG – fat, oil and grease. 

 Gate fee – or tipping fee is the charge levied upon a given quantity of waste received at a waste processing facility. In the case of a landfill it is generally levied to offset the cost of opening, maintaining and eventually closing the site. It may also include any landfill tax which is applicable in the region.

Global Warming Potential (GWP) – is the mass of greenhouse gas (expressed as CO2 equivalents)  emitted to contribute to global warming. GWP is calculated over a specific time interval (usually 100 years).

Global warming – is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near–surface air and oceans since the mid–20th century and its projected continuation. Global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C between the start and the end of the 20th century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century was caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation, causing climate change.

Greenhouse gases – Greenhouse gases are gases in an atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. Increased amounts of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (derived from human activities such as burning fossil fuels and raising farm stock) and deforestation are seen as the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect causing climate change. The main greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere are water vapour, ozone, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. In addition to the main greenhouse gases, others include sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. Although these gases are less prevalent in the earth’s atmosphere, they have very high global warming potential. Methane and carbon dioxide make up about 98 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from waste activities.

Household Waste – all waste collected by Waste Collection Authorities under section 45(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, plus all waste arisings from Civic Amenity sites and waste collected by third parties for which collection or disposal credits are paid under Section 52 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Household waste includes waste from collection rounds of domestic properties (including separate rounds for the collection of recyclables), street cleansing and litter collection, bulky household waste collections, hazardous household waste collections, household clinical waste collections, garden waste collections, Civic Amenity/Reuse and Recycling Centre wastes, drop–off/’bring’ systems, weekend skip services and any other household waste collected by the waste authorities.

Home composting – compost can be made at home using a traditional compost heap, a purpose designed container, or a wormery.

Incineration – normally refers to the controlled burning of waste in the presence of sufficient air to achieve complete combustion. Energy is usually recovered in the form of electric power and/or heat. The emissions are controlled under EU Directive 2000/76/EC.

Integrated Waste Management –  involves a number of key elements, including: recognising each step in the waste management process as part of a whole; involving all key players in the decision–making process and utilising a mixture of waste management options within the locally determined sustainable waste management system.

Kerbside Collection – any regular collection of recyclable and residual waste from premises, which can include collections from commercial or industrial premises as well as households. Excludes collection services delivered on demand.

Kerbside sort – systems are where materials are sorted by material type at the kerbside into different compartments of a collection vehicle.

Kilowatt – A unit of electrical power, equals 1,000 watts.

Landfill – sites are areas of land in which waste is deposited. Landfill sites are often located in disused quarries or mines. In areas where there are limited, or no ready–made voids, the practice of landraising is sometimes carried out, where some or all of the waste is deposited above ground, and the landscape is contoured. Landfill and landraising are engineered tp prevent groundwater contamination and adverse environmental impacts.

Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) – The government’s key measure to meet the demands of the European Landfill Directive in England, and began on April 1, 2005. The system set allowances on the amount of biodegradable municipal waste local authorities can send to landfill. In two–tier areas, this refers to waste disposal authorities. These allowances are tradable, so that high landfilling authorities can buy more allowances if they expect to landfill more than the allowances they hold. Similarly, authorities with low landfill rates can sell their surplus allowances.

Landfill Tax – Landfill tax is paid on top of normal landfill fees by businesses and local authorities that want to dispose of waste using a landfill site. It is designed to encourage businesses to produce less waste and to use alternative forms of waste management. There are two rates of tax:

•  the lower rate – £2.50 per tonne for inert waste such as rocks and soil and

•  the standard rate – £40 per tonne from 1 April 2009 and increasing by £8 per tonne each year until at least 2013, when it will be £72 per tonne.

Land Use Planning – the Town and Country Planning system regulates the development and use of land in the public interest, and has an important role to play in achieving sustainable waste management.

Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) – Life cycle assessment techniques measure the environmental and economic costs and benefits of products and activities (in this case waste) at every stage of its existence, from production to final disposal. Such techniques can provide a basis for making strategic decisions on the ways in which particular waste in a given set of circumstances can be most effectively managed, for example to reduce costs or greenhouse gas emissions from waste activities.

Methane –  a greenhouse gas, 25 times stronger as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. Methane is the predominant greenhouse gas from waste, mostly from biodegradable waste decomposing in landfill. Methane emissions from landfills make up approximately 40 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

Municipal Waste – see Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

Municipal Solid Waste –  this includes all waste under the control of local authorities or agents acting on their behalf. It includes all household waste, street litter, waste delivered to council recycling points, municipal parks and gardens wastes, council office waste, Civic Amenity waste, and some commercial waste from shops and smaller trading estates where local authorities have waste collection agreements in place. It can also include industrial waste collected by a waste collection authority with authorisation of the waste disposal authority.

Recycling – involves the reprocessing of waste, either into the same product or a different one. Many non–hazardous industrial wastes such as paper, glass, cardboard, plastics and scrap metals can be recycled. Special wastes such as solvents can also be recycled by specialist companies, or by in–house equipment.

Source-separate collection – recycling collection schemes from homes or businesses where materials for recycling are collected separately from other materials, either by different vehicle or at a different time to the ordinary household or business waste collection.

Waste – the strict legal definition of waste is extremely complex but it encompasses most unwanted material which has fallen out of the commercial cycle or chain of utility, which the holder discards, or intends to, or is required to discard.

Waste Arising – the amount of waste generated in a given locality over a given period of time.

Waste authority – the term is a collective term to include London unitary, collection, and waste disposal authorities.

Waste Collection Authority (WCA) –  the authority responsible for arranging the collection of household waste in their area and commercial or industrial waste on request.

Waste Disposal – this is defined by the list of operations that constitute disposal (for under Part III of Schedule 4 of the Waste Management Licensing Regulations). This includes landfill, land raising, incineration, permanent storage etc.

Waste Disposal Authorities (WDAs) – the Authority responsible for arranging for the disposal of waste collected in their area by the Waste Collection Authority. They also provide sites where householders can deposit waste free of charge (Re–use and Recycling Centres).

Waste Hierarchy –  suggests that: the most effective environmental solution may often be to prevent or reduce the amount of waste generated; where further reduction is not practicable, products and materials can sometimes be used again, either for the same or a different purpose – reuse; failing that, value should be recovered from waste, through recycling, composting or energy recovery from waste; only if none of the above offer an appropriate solution should waste be disposed.


AD Anaerobic digestion 

CO2 Carbon dioxide

FWD Food Waste Disposer

kg Kilogram

kWh Kilowatt Hour

WRAP Waste Resources Action Programme