Do you know when you have waste on your hands?
The industry has been its own worst enemy, abusing or ignoring the system, not giving consideration to the environmental impact of its actions. This has lead to the need for regulation and the dreaded PAPERWORK!
It’s an all too frequent occurrence, carriers and contractors believing they have a “product” or something they can re-use or sell, when in actual fact what they have is waste. This rarely means that the waste can’t be re-used, it is actively encouraged that it should be, either on the site of origin or on another site, but it can’t just be used without going through the proper channels.
I was challenged recently in a response to a LinkedIn post as to why the “paperwork had to be so confusing” and to a point, I agree. Sometimes it can be confusing, time-consuming and expensive to implement. Without proper planning, it may even not be feasible. Unfortunately, the industry has been its own worst enemy, abusing or ignoring the system, not giving consideration to the environmental impact of its actions and chasing a quick buck whenever possible. This has led to the need for regulation and the dreaded PAPERWORK!
So let’s start with the basics…when is something considered a waste?
Well the definition is simple:
“…any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard…” – 2008 Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC)
However, the application less so. There is a reason there have been battles in the high court over when something is defined as waste or not. However, for those of us in the construction industry, there are a few simple rules we can follow without the need for a high-powered barrister!
Or to give them their technical name, MUCK!
There are a few considerations here. For example, the Waste Framework Directive excludes the following from its scope:
- Unexcavated contaminated soils
- Uncontaminated soil and other naturally occurring material excavated in the course of construction activities where it is certain that the material will be used for the purposes of construction in its natural state on the site from which it was excavated
In these instances, you do not have waste on your hands. Contaminated soils can remain in the ground (so long as risk to end-users and the environment is considered) and clean natural soils can be re-used on site. Now, some may say even clean natural soils need a Materials Management Plan (MMP) in place to be re-used, I disagree and think that’s adding paperwork for paperwork’s sake.
With the above being the case, that means excavated contaminated soils, or clean soils that need to leave site are waste. There are various options here. Excavated contaminated soils can be re-used on site…in certain circumstances with….you guessed it…the right paperwork in place. However, if you are getting rid of clean soils off-site it is a waste, EVEN IF YOU CALL IT TOPSOIL and charge people for it! This doesn’t mean clean soils can’t be used elsewhere, and CL:AIRES DoWCoP scheme allows for clean, naturally occurring soils to be used on another site and means they can be classed as a material rather than waste, but you guessed it, you need the right paperwork.
If you have “topsoil” this does not mean it can be treated differently to other soils, it doesn’t mean you can stick it in a pile and write on LinkedIn “Topsoil for sale!”. In fact, even if you take it to a recycling centre and it is processed to be re-sold, it is still waste. Have a read of RPS190…it’ll blow your mind, especially if you have been supplying or buying thousands of tonnes of “processed topsoil” for years.
You’ve knocked down a building and have tonnes of concrete and brick, of course, it should be crushed, either on-site or off-site. It provides a valuable recycled product to the industry and reduces the need for natural resources to be used. However, it is a waste before it is crushed and it remains a waste after unless it is produced in line with WRAPS Quality Protocol “Aggregates from Inert waste – End of waste criteria for the production of aggregates from inert waste”. This is the case whether the waste is crushed on-site, or at a recycling centre. So again, if you crush a load of demo waste on-site and try to sell it, or buy it, you’ve got waste on your hands unless you have…….you got it….the right paperwork!
There are always exceptions, nuances and alternatives not covered here, for example, if you dispose of something you don’t need, but it is to be used for its original purpose (for instance you’ve ordered too much aggregate and need to get rid of it but can send it to another site to still be used as aggregate) then it isn’t waste.
It is a minefield for producers, carriers, buyers and sellers alike. It can easily be done wrong, but guess what, the EA and HMRC don’t sympathise with naivety. So, if you are doing any of the above as part of your business activities, my advice, get some help from someone who knows how to do the paperwork!
About the author
Alex Collman MCIWM CRWM
Alex is the founder and Managing Director of SoilEx Environmental, a business that provides waste management support and services to the construction industry. Following nearly as decade heading up the waste division of a national aggregate and waste broker Alex realised there was a significant knowledge gap in the construction industry. Contractors who have the responsibility of managing excavated waste often take an overly cautious approach, or inadvertently mis-mang their waste, either having significant environmental and commercial consequences. SoilEx fills that knowledge gap, ensuring their clients manage their waste as effectively as possible whilst remaining compliant in the process.
To date they have worked with developers, Tier 1’s, demolition and groundwork sub-contractors nationally, reducing waste, increasing re-use and finding significant cost savings in the process.
Alex’s passion is for SoilEx to provide a truly unique service to its clients that focuses on improved knowledge, processes and techniques to improve the industries management of its excavated wastes.
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