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Last edited 11 Aug 2014

Site Waste Management Plans – A Necessary Burden

As part of a series of blogs by --KLH Sustainability, Chloe Souque (above) considers the impending demise of site waste management plans.


Following a comprehensive government review of 21,000 regulations on different themes, Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP) will no longer be compulsory for construction projects in England from 1 December 2013. However, they may still be required by BREEAM, the local planning authority, by the main contractor or by client (ref Environment Agency Bulletin Issue 24 November 2013).

In the Red Tape Challenge – Environment Theme Proposals issued in March 2012, DEFRA wrote, “You told us to remove Site Waste Management Plans Regulations because they force companies to spend time and money estimating their waste production when they could be reducing waste through more effective activities, such as training employees”

It is unclear how a client or contractor can actually provide useful training to their employees or implement “more effective activities” without having first understood their waste streams. A study conducted in 2009 by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) revealed that 76% of the businesses questioned thought that the SWMP regulations had saved them money or were cost neutral. This seems logical as a good SWMP will helps prioritise efforts on the big savers. An SWMP is not an end in itself but a useful instrument to encourage companies and their supply chain to assess, quantify, analyse and monitor their waste.

The performance of the construction and demolition industries has steadily improved over the years as waste disposal has become more expensive. However, the industry still does not maximise the value of their waste with down-cycling regularly promoted over recycling or reuse; and often the most significant savings associated with avoiding material use in the first instance through design or supply chain innovations, are still overlooked. This is the true value of the SWMP.

Scrapping the regulations gives the wrong signal to the industry. It implies the SWMP is not an effective tool to address material consumption and identify cost savings. Proactive and savvy clients and contractors are likely to continue to utilise SWMP's to maximise material resource efficiency and generate cost saving. Hopefully the rest of industry will follow suit.

For more information see: Site waste management plans.

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