Waste Matters

iStock_000002788585_FullHow can those responsible for waste in an organisation ensure they are fully complying with the EU’s Waste Framework Directive?

Managing the levels of waste that your organisation is producing and then arranging disposal has become a major challenge. According to figures compiled by WRAP, the waste reduction and resource efficiency organisation, around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enter the UK economy each year, with only 115 million tonnes of this being recycled.

The UK hospitality sector (hotels, pubs, restaurants and quick service restaurants) could save £724 million a year by tackling food waste. And by pursuing opportunities for reuse, the UK could reduce its reliance on raw materials by as much as 20% by 2020.

The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 (and subsequent amendment of 2003) compels organisations to understand the quantities and types of waste they are producing. Managers must now pay even closer attention to the waste their businesses or organisations are producing.

A greater understanding of the types of waste being produced will lead to a more streamlined and economic disposal. This is the core principle behind the waste hierarchy. This five-step plan aims to tackle waste initially at its source, than then through a series of well-defined steps to ensure that any waste produced is disposed of with the minimum impact on the environment. The waste hierarchy includes these core steps.

  • Prevention. Using less material in design and manufacture, keeping products for longer, reuse, using less hazardous materials.
  • Preparing for reuse. Checking, cleaning, repairing, refurbishing, whole items or spare parts.
  • Recycling. Turning waste into a new substance or product includes composting if it meets quality protocols.
  • Other recovery. Includes anaerobic digestion, incineration with energy recovery, gasification and pyrolysis, which produce energy (fuels, heat and power) and materials from waste, some backfilling.
  • Disposal. Means any operation, which is not recovery even where the operation has as a secondary consequence the reclamation of substances or energy.

WRAP states: “Waste disposal has the greatest impact on the environment and typically is the least cost-effective waste management solution for your company. Therefore, by moving up the hierarchy you could save money, raw materials, water and energy, improve your image and reduce your impact on the environment.”

Waste managers now need a more complex approach in dealing with the management of the waste they have, with an appreciation of how waste is initially created — which is a core component of the Waste Directive Framework — to reducing the amount of waste that has to be disposed of, and importantly understanding how a robust waste management process is beneficial to their companies as well as the environment.

A good example of how practical action can allow a company to meet the requirements set out in the Waste Directive Framework and how impact on the environment can be reduced, is Airedale Chemical’s “Zero to Landfill” campaign. The initiative is the brainchild of health and safety advisor Karen Waddington.

“When carrying out my health and safety analysis across the site, I could see we had a few gaps in our recycling procedures,” said Karen. “Card and polybags were being recycled, however everything else was being sent to a landfill so I researched alternative methods.”

Airedale Chemical has partnered with Bradford recycling firm BW Recycling Ltd to collect baled waste and take it for recycling. For every bale of waste, the company receives a recycling rebate from BW Recycling. Karen continued: “As well as helping the environment, recycling all of our waste also brings financial benefits to Airedale Chemical. Baling our waste means we can receive an increase of 40% rebate on one tonne of recycled waste as opposed to non-baled packaging.

“In less than a month, we have been able to recycle two tonnes of waste and I expect to recoup the cost of the baling machine we purchased within 10 months. With such a return on investment, we can continue growing our green initiative.”

Your waste future

As the Waste Framework Directive clearly defines types of waste and how businesses and organisations should approach their management of waste, environment managers need to build into their existing waste management processes an ambition to move as much of the waste they do produce up the hierarchy to reduce the levels of waste actually produced.

The type of organisation or business you are managing will of course impact on how successfully you can become at meeting the challenges of the waste hierarchy, with 100% prevention being a goal that may be impossible to meet with current manufacturing, packaging and disposal methods. However, environment managers should strive to move to more recovery and recycling of their waste where possible.

In its report into how to apply the waste hierarchy, Defra concludes: “The decisions you are legally obliged to make to follow this waste hierarchy include identifying the best waste management approach for the specific waste your business generates. In addition to the environmental impacts of these decisions, you will also need to consider technical feasibility, economic viability and environmental protection.”

It may be helpful to look at the following questions in turn and to discuss them when you negotiate waste management contracts.

  1. What does the waste you create or handle consist of?
  2. How can you prevent any of this waste?
  3. Can the waste be prepared for reuse, can it be recycled or can any other value be recovered?
  4. How can you or your waste contractor(s) help you to elevate your waste on the waste hierarchy scale?

Defra research shows UK businesses can save up to £23bn through low-cost or no-cost improvements in the efficient use of resources. How waste is managed is now an important economic as well as environmental consideration all waste managers need to place at the top of their agendas.

Talk in Green

Talk in Green

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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