Business waste jargon buster

3rd June 2021 Posted by

Don’t let business waste jargon bamboozle you – use the SUEZ jargon buster to sift through and understand the all-important terms when organising your business waste.


Anaerobic digestion

Anaerobic digestion is the process of breaking down organic matter, and is an alternative to composting of food waste. The process is called anaerobic because it takes place in the absence of oxygen in a sealed tank where food waste is turned into biogas and biofertilizer.  Anaerobic digestion does not only produce renewable energy but also avoids carbon dioxide emissions.



A material or substance capable of breaking down organically by bacteria or other living organisms. Food waste is a good example of this.


This is a combination of the words ‘biological’ and ‘diversity’. It describes the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, and a high level of diversity is usually considered to be important and desirable. This is because biodiversity is vital for providing strong functioning ecosystems, which are crucial for all species. Sustainable waste management is important to maintaining strong biodiversity.


This is any fuel that is derived from plant, algae or animal waste (biomass).


Carbon footprint

Refers to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment as a result of the activities of your organisation. This can be substantially reduced through effective recycling and sustainable waste management strategies.

Circular economy

Unlike linear economy model ‘take-make-waste’, a circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended. In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum.

Climate change

The change in global or regional climate patterns, known as climate change, is the greatest threat we face. Climate change is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels. Recycling is one of the key areas in which we can make a positive difference, because it leads to fewer materials being put into landfill and instead being reused.

Clinical waste

This is the term used to refer to waste produced from healthcare and similar activities. This includes anything that could pose a risk of infection, or prove hazardous.



The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Deposit return scheme

A deposit return scheme is a solution to the challenge of recycling. It works by adding a small extra deposit on the price of drinks sold in plastic and glass bottles and cans, which the consumer gets back once they’ve returned the container for recycling. This deposit can be redeemed for cash. A deposit return scheme keeps more recyclable materials in circulation.

Dry mixed recycling (DMR)

This is the term used to describe recycling (waste that is free of contaminants). Once collected, dry mixed recycling such as recycled cans, cardboard, paper and plastics are sent to a materials recycling facility (MRF), where they are sorted. Valuable secondary raw materials, such as cans, cardboard, paper and plastics, are separated and sent to reprocessors, where they are turned into new materials.

Duty of care

This the responsibility of every employer – to produce, store, transport and dispose of waste without causing harm to the environment.


Energy from waste

Energy from waste is a process of turning waste into a useable form of energy. This can include electricity, heat and transport fuels e.g. diesel. This can be done in a range of ways. Incineration is the most well-known.

Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA)

The Environmental Protection Act of 1990 forms the fundamental structure and authority of waste management in the UK.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR)

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) reforms will be the most significant change to the Packaging Waste Regulations since they came into effect in 1997. The proposed changes, which are due to come into force in 2023, will shift the full cost of collecting household waste from the taxpayer to producers.


Global warming

Human-induced warming of the Earth. Businesses can help fight global warming by focussing on reducing energy production and engaging in other sustainable practices.

Greenhouse gas

Gasses such as carbon dioxide, which serve to trap heat in our atmosphere and contribute significantly to global warming.


Hazardous waste

If a substance is generally seen as potentially harmful to humans or the environment, it’s classed as hazardous. For example, asbestos, bulbs, batteries and oils. As a business, you have a duty of care to dispose of hazardous waste correctly.


In-vessel composting

An important part of processing food waste, in-vessel composting destroys the pathogens in decaying food as part of the composting process. It involves shredding organic waste, adding water and heating.


Landfill Tax

If your business disposes of waste using landfill sites, you’ll pay tax on top of your normal disposal fees. Many businesses avoid this tax by engaging in sustainable waste management practices like recycling.


Natural capital

This is the world’s stocks of natural assets. This includes elements such as soil, air and water.

Net zero carbon

To be net zero means that any emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.


Open windrow composting

Green waste can be turned into compost in the open air using the windrows method. The green waste is checked for quality before being shredded and formed into windrows. These are turned every week for 14 weeks as the organic materials break down to form compost.


Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. In a 2018 special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that countries must bring carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 to keep global warming to within 1.5 °C of pre-industrial levels. For developed nations such as the UK, the date may need to be earlier.


Refuse derived fuel (RDF)

This alternative fuel is produced from combustible components of general waste, known as municipal solid waste, taken from households, industrial or commercial sites. The waste is shredded, dried, baled and then finally burned to produce electricity.

Renewable energy

Energy collected from renewable sources such as tide, wind and solar power.

Residual waste

Residual waste is non-hazardous industrial and household waste. It refers to the mixed waste generated in households that remains after source separating hazardous waste and recyclables, such as bio-waste, paper, cardboard, metals, glass and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).


Single stream recycling

A system where all recyclable materials are mixed in a collection truck, instead of being separated prior to collection. This type of recycling is generally seen easier for the consumer, but carries a greater risk of material contamination during the recycling process.

Solid recovered fuel (SRF)

Solid recovered fuel is created from general waste. It diverts materials from landfill, but also reclaims them for use as an alternative energy source. Made mostly from commercial and industrial waste, this fuel has a low moisture content and a high calorific value.

Sustainable development goals

The United Nation’s blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, addressing global challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation.

Sustainable procurement

A process whereby a business considers social, economic and environmental factors during procurement of goods, services and utilities.


Triple bottom line

An accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and financial. Some businesses choose to evaluate broader business performance using these criteria.



The transformation of waste materials or by-products into new materials or products.


Waste electrical and electronic Equipment (WEEE)

WEEE is a type of waste that includes electrical and electronic equipment e.g. white goods, drills, welding equipment, lawnmowers, toys, leisure and sports electricals such as video games. Electrical equipment is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK. The correct collection, treatment and recycling of this type of waste enables organisations to avoid landfill tax and positively impact the environment.

Waste stream

Detailing flows of specific waste from source to treatment, waste streams are useful for businesses to understand. A waste audit can help with this.

Waste Transfer Note (WTN)

It’s important that waste has a clear audit trail. A waste transfer note does just that – detailing the transfer of waste from one place to another.

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