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Last edited 06 Oct 2019
Waste hierarchy for construction
Businesses and other organisations within the UK produce significant amounts of waste. In particular, the UK construction industry is the largest consumer of resources, requiring more than 400 million tonnes of material a year (ref Davis Langdon). 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings and 13% of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfill without being used (ref Technology Strategy Board).
The waste hierarchy sets out a set of priorities that are based on sustainability with an order of preference for actions to reduce and manage waste. The overall aim of the hierarchy is to generate the minimum waste possible by using every material in every way possible. The most preferable option is 'prevention', at the top of the hierarchy with the least preferable 'disposal' at the bottom.
The waste hierarchy illustrated below is from the Defra 2011 publication, Guidance on applying the waste hierarchy which provides advice on the application of the waste hierarchy for businesses and public bodies.
The European Union's Waste Framework Directive (WFD Directive 2008/98/EC) introduced the five-step waste hierarchy system which must be implemented by all member states.
All businesses or public bodies that produce or handle waste must apply the waste hierarchy system and try to prevent the generation of waste wherever possible. In addition, if the business is involved in the production, import, export, carrying, keeping, treatment or disposal of waste, or as a broker in control of such waste, there is a legal duty of care to take all reasonable steps to keep that waste safe. If waste is transferred to someone else, there is a duty of care to ensure they are authorised to take it and can deal with it or dispose of it safely.
- Reduction of food waste.
- Reduction of packaging.
- Care in handling.
- Use of less material in manufacturing.
- Re-use of surplus material by other organisations.
- Sell/donate/swap unwanted items.
- Repair and retain items rather than purchasing new ones.
- Hire or lease items.
- Re-use containers.
In construction, a site waste management plan (SWMP) can be prepared before construction begins, describing how materials will be managed efficiently and disposed of legally during the construction of the works, and explaining how the re-use and recycling of materials will be maximised.
Specific construction guidance is also available at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/category/sector/construction
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Bin blight.
- BREEAM Operational waste.
- Circular economy.
- Environmental plan.
- Mean lean green.
- Recyclable construction materials.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle.
- Reused construction products.
- Site waste management plan.
- UandI Think event with Studio SWINE.
- Waste management plan for England.
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