Waste management


Definition of waste

Waste is defined in Article 1(1)(a) of the Waste Framework Directive (2006/12/EC) as:

'...any substance or object...which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard'.

'Holder' means:

'...the producer of the waste or the natural or legal person who is in possession of it'.

© European Communities,

 'It rests, in the first place, with the producer or holder of a substance or object to decide whether it is being discarded and is waste' (source: Non-statutory guidance for site waste management plans, DEFRA, April 2008)

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Waste statistics

Waste is an inevitable consequence of the construction and demolition process. Whilst the generation of some of this waste is unavoidable, there are methods of improving production, management and disposal, which will help to minimise volumes and reduce its impact on the environment.

The construction industry uses 400m tonnes of the UK's natural resource materials (aggregates, timber, gypsum, concrete, stone, etc.) each year, making it by far the biggest consumer of these materials.

For example, in 2004 the construction and demolition industry generated approximately 32% of the UK's total annual waste output (compared with 9% for municipal waste), accounting for around 90m tonnes of inert waste per year. Around 46m tonnes of this was re-used or recycled, while 28m tonnes is sent directly to landfill (source: DEFRA). Around 1.7m tonnes of this waste is defined as hazardous.

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

It is estimated that around 13% of all materials delivered to construction sites are disposed of without ever being used and that around 4% of total construction costs are associated with waste disposal.

Around a third of all fly tipping is made up of materials from the construction, demolition and excavation industries, which costs the economy over £17m annually.

Waste sent to landfill is by far the most damaging by-product of the construction process. As well as using up decreasing landfill availability, the methane it produces is a potent greenhouse gas, 21 times more potent than CO2. The UK is one of the most dependent countries on landfill in the European Union and its current landfill sites are expected to reach capacity within the next 5 years.

In comparison, the industry accounts for 8% of the UK's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generating upwards of £100 billion per year in revenue. Whilst it is an undeniably important contributor to the UK economy, its level of waste output is

Landfill tax

During the 1990s the UK government recognised that something had to be done to stem the continued rise in waste being sent to landfill. Out of this concern came the introduction of the Landfill Tax Regulations in 1996, which levied a tax upon each tonne of waste sent to landfill. It was hoped that this tax would be the main driver in diverting waste to other more sustainable methods of disposal.

In a further attempt to reduce our dependency on landfill and harmonise waste practice across the European Union, the Landfill Directive was introduced in 1999. The directive has tightened landfill legislation significantly, requiring the classification of waste streams (inert, hazardous or non-hazardous), banning disposal of some previously permitted wastes and stopping the practice of co-disposal (inert and hazardous waste).

After 1 April 2009 waste containing any gypsum based materials were not able to be landfilled with biodegradable wastes. Gypsum materials are known to generate harmful levels of hydrogen sulphide gas.

There are currently 2 rates of landfill tax payable - a standard rate for active waste at £56 per tonne and a second rate for inert waste (soil, concrete, ceramics, etc.) at £2.50 per tonne. The standard rate increases yearly by £8 per tonne, until at least 2014.

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