Waste Management in Construction Sites

Waste Management in Construction Sites

Waste is an inevitable bi-product of all of construction work. It would be impossible to eliminate it completely, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of waste. Statistics show that the construction industry is the biggest user of raw materials, and from a global perspective, it is accountable for roughly 30% of all materials that are used and disposed.

Increased awareness from the government, construction companies and consumers, now means that everyone is doing something to reduce waste. This guide aims to provide a brief overview of a construction companies responsibilities regarding waste, while analysing the regulations associated with it.

Waste disposal needs to be done properly

Waste disposal needs to be done properly

Many waste management schemes have been enforced all around the world. However, they have been widely welcomed by both consumers and construction companies. From an ethical point of view, site waste management plans (SWMP’s) have been introduced to:

  • Reduce the waste associated with construction
  • Promote responsibility regarding the overuse of landfills
  • Reduce the amount of non-renewable materials used
  • Reduce the amount of non-renewable energy resources used
  • Promote waste awareness generally

While ethical issues regarding building-related waste may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there are some benefits that come together with following a properly prepared SWMP:

  • Fewer materials wasted means that less needs to be disposed. This brings about high levels of efficiency, which in turn improves the pace of construction
  • Increased levels of efficiency also mean lower costs because fewer materials are used and fewer items need to be disposed
  • Responsible use of resources will also keep material costs down in the long run

All of these factors will benefit both construction companies and the clients who employ their services. However, there is almost an endless list of reasons why SWMP’s should be considered. In most cases, SWMP’s are the responsibility of the managing contractor, but as these can have a large effect on the clients, it is vital to analyse the stages that make up a properly executed waste management plan.

  1. First, the person who is responsible for the overseeing of the waste management plan will need to be identified. This person may vary depending on the stage of building, so it is a good idea to keep track of who they are
  2. The person responsible (usually the managing contractor) will need to identify both the quantity, and the type of materials that need to be disposed of at different stages of construction. This is an important role as many sites will be handling hazardous materials like asbestos
  3. Suitable waste disposal areas on site will need to be identified
  4. Appropriate training will be given to both employed contractors and sub-contractors regarding waste management
  5. Plans and percentage targets should be generated to assess levels of potential waste. The way that this waste is handled should also be considered
  6. The effectiveness of the waste management plan should be analysed regularly. It should correspond to the plans and percentage targets that were previously generated
  7. Plans may need to be updated if circumstances change. Likewise, if targets aren’t being met appropriate action will need to be taken to rectify the issues
  8. After the project has been completed a detailed review should be made. This will act as an overall report analysing the success levels associated with the SWMP
Garbage like this needs to be dealt with properly.

Garbage like this needs to be dealt with properly.

The steps that we have covered above highlight the main stages involved in a properly executed SWMP. These are mandatory for construction projects valued over £300,000. However, the benefits associated with them can be incorporated into all developments. While in theory a SWMP is optional, there are many legal requirements that have to be met regarding the disposal of building waste at all times. These legal documents are long and detailed in nature, and so only a brief overview can be provided, but they need to be followed:

Environmental Protection Act 1990 Part 2

This act ultimately aims to ensure that the handling and disposal of waste does not harm the environment. It highlights how tasks can be carried out responsibly, while it also emphasises the notion that all parties involved in work will have specific duties. This act introduced the idea of “duty if care” and was amended and updated in 2006.

Environmental Protection Regulations 1991

These regulations analyse the safety aspects associated with the distribution of waste. Anyone who produces, imports, keeps, treats or disposes waste will have to abide by these guidelines. This is not just applicable to the construction industry, but it’s also relevant to all businesses and industries handling waste.

Landfill Regulations 2002

These regulations have changed dramatically since they were introduced in 2002, and as a result they are now redundant. However, certain aspects still apply so it’s worthwhile checking the “landfill directive” guidelines. This guideline aims to reduce the impacts on the environment that are associated with the use of landfills.

Construction sites will produce a lot of waste.

Construction sites will produce a lot of waste.

Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations

These regulations applied to pollution and greenhouse gasses associated with all aspects of building work, but were revoked in 2007. This was partially due to the European Union’s integrated approach to reduce pollution, which resulted in much of this being altered. Some of the original concepts highlighted in this guide are still appropriate, but for an up-to-date version explore the council directive 2008/01/EC.

Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994

Again, many of the aspects discussed in these regulations were changed and updated in 2007. This is mainly due to the introduction of the environmental permitting regulations 2007, which identified a number of activities that now require a permit. These regulations were updated and amended in 2010.

Make sure you have some heavy duty vehicles ready to help get rid of your waste

Make sure you have some heavy duty vehicles ready to help get rid of your waste

As we can see from the above, the rules and regulations relating to waste disposal are changing all the time. The above provides a brief insight regarding these guidelines, but for more accurate information it’s advisable to consult the full documents. It is also worth noting that heightened awareness has led to stricter regulations and harsher consequences for those who do not follow them.

Overall, waste management is a big factor in the construction industry. It affects anything from site efficiency to legal obligations and everything in between. For safe and effective disposal of waste, a SWMP should be implemented. This guide has analysed the main steps that are vital for a successful SWMP, while it has also briefly looked at legislation relating to them. For further information on waste management, consult any of the regulations highlighted above or contact an experienced building contractor for construction advice.


Image credits: Nils Geylen, Ell Brown and Salim Virji