The best way to describe trade effluent is to begin with the definition of domestic effluent. Domestic wastewater is anything disposed of in the sewerage system from toilets, sinks, washing machines and dishwashers.

Anything that is not classified as domestic waste, or that is discharged in large volumes or is contaminated - for example, waste from chemical toilets, launderettes and dry cleaners, car washes, commercial food and drink manufacturers, or municipal and commercial swimming pools - is trade effluent.

Trade effluent consents

Discharging trade effluent without consent is a criminal offence.

When it comes to trade effluent, the primary concerns are the safety of the environment and the health of staff. If your organisation produces high volumes of effluent, or waste that is contaminated, you must ensure that the sewerage network is able to take the volume and treat the waste by obtaining trade effluent consent.

The licence will define the nature of the discharge that is covered by the consent and will detail any restrictions you must follow. Samples of discharge will be taken on a regular basis to ensure that compliance is maintained.

Car Wash

The main industries that need consent are:

  • the agricultural sector, where wastewater could contain minerals that must be removed before the waste is discharged into the system
  • food and drink manufacturers, where cleanliness and hygiene standards are extremely high
  • industries that use a lot of chemicals
  • multi-site and large businesses using more than 6,000m³ of water in a single year

Companies that do not need trade effluent consent

Businesses that do not need consent are those that produce only waste that’s classified as domestic sewage. This covers most SMEs that only generate wastewater through kitchens, bathrooms and toilet facilities, such as restaurants, pubs, cafés, hotels, offices and shops.

It surprises some people that most hairdressing salons do not need trade effluent consent even though they use chemicals on a daily basis. However, the nature of the chemicals used means the risks are low, so it is treated as domestic wastewater.

Swimming pools

As you’d expect from something that uses such a large amount of water and chemicals, municipal and commercial swimming pools do require trade effluent consent. However, not all swimming pools require this - domestic swimming pools are exempt, as are pools in hotels that are for the use of residents only.

Meeting the challenge

Our experts will be very happy to talk to you about whether you need consent, or to help you with your trade effluent consent application. They can also support you with recommendations that will enable your organisation to meet its regulatory obligations and minimise its environmental impact. For more information, please email us at