• New research shows that almost half of construction companies surveyed don’t know where all of their waste goes
  • ‘right Waste, right Place’ construction-sector campaign launched at RWM on 13 September at 13.00hrs in local authority theatre to help businesses understand responsibilities and raise awareness

Many construction businesses across the UK are struggling to do the right thing with their waste, with almost half admitting to practices that mean they are not complying fully with the law. A new survey shows that while 98% of construction businesses think they are complying with obligations under waste ‘Duty of Care’ law, many are leaving themselves open to unlimited fines, prosecution and potential closure due to their lack of awareness.

The national survey by ‘right Waste, right Place’ - mainly focused on small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) - found that 46% of SME construction businesses didn’t know where all their waste goes when it leaves site. Over a third also admitted to not being sure whether they completed or kept essential Waste Transfer Notes, a key requirement. Further, many were unsure on how to correctly classify all the waste materials they handled.

By not complying, construction businesses risk waste falling into the hands of criminals, leading to environmental, health and safety risks through fly-tipping and illegal disposal.

In response, the ‘right Waste, right Place’ construction sector-focused campaign has been launched at RWM on 13 September 2016, at 13.00hrs in the local authority theatre, to help construction businesses understand what is expected of them. Centred on an interactive website (www.rightwasterightplace.com) and run by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the campaign is supported by the Environment Agency (EA), the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association Education Trust (ESAET), and offers practical advice on how to manage waste safely and efficiently. The construction sector-focused campaign will include a Simple Guide to the Duty of Care for construction companies, need to know cards and case studies highlighting Duty of Care requirements and a number of training seminars aimed specifically at construction businesses.

Sam Corp, Head of Regulation at the ESA, commented:

“These results back up what we suspected, that small construction businesses really want to do the right thing but many are ultimately not complying with the law. Nearly half told us that they’re unsure where the waste goes when it leaves them. Dealing with your waste can fall down the list of priorities when busy, but business people need to realise that they are risking significant penalties if they do not comply.
“Waste crime is not victimless. Dealing with the results is costing taxpayers millions of pounds each year and waste criminals can harm the environment and put local communities in danger. By not complying, local businesses could well be helping facilitate such crime by not ensuring waste is disposed of safely.
“The ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign is here to help. Small business owners are often stretched, multi-tasking and under pressure. Our campaign provides valuable and easy-to-understand materials that will help them put good practices in place that protect them from breaking the law.”

Alan Holmes, Senior Waste Advisor, Environment Agency, said:

“Research conducted by the Environment Agency back in 2012 showed that 28% of illegal waste sites in the UK featured construction and demolition wastes. The latest research conducted on behalf of the ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign confirm our expectation that many small construction businesses are unaware they are acting illegally. We therefore support the launch of the construction-sector campaign to help businesses understand responsibilities and raise awareness.”

Julia Barrett, Director at Willmott Dixon’s Re-Thinking Limited, said:

“The amount of waste we produce at Willmott Dixon is directly linked to the number of construction sites that we have. Through close collaboration with key supply chain partners we have increased the diversion from landfill of our demolition, excavation and construction waste to 98%. The cheapest waste to deal with is the waste we don’t create and so we have now set a target to reduce our construction waste by 60% by 2020.
“We are proud to be a campaign ambassador for the ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign and would encourage many more construction companies and supply chain partners to join the programme.”

The national ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign has already attracted the support of a collection of official ‘ambassadors’ spanning various sectors, including local authorities, associations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, waste management companies, housebuilders, construction companies, and charities including the National Trust.

The latest campaign research is based on a survey of over 1000 businesses across the UK. Whilst highlighting lack of awareness about ‘Duty of Care’ waste legislation, it showed that many businesses are motivated and currently take steps to do the right thing.

Nationally, environmental and health considerations were the main drivers for businesses to comply, followed closely by legal requirements. A total of 89% also said they took steps to securely store their waste, while 83% were making some effort to separate the different types of waste created before disposing or recycling.

Putting the wrong waste in the wrong place can cause problems with contamination of material destined for recycling, potentially costing businesses money.

Steve Lee, chief executive of CIWM, said:

“We were pleased to see that the majority of the businesses we spoke to were motivated to do the right thing and had practices in place to split different types of waste such as electronic, hazardous, plastic and metal waste.
“Owners of SME businesses are expected to be an expert in everything – and waste law is no exception. Our campaign provides a helping hand to all those diligent company owners or sole traders who do not want to leave themselves open to risk. Crucially, the campaign does this in a simple and accessible way and we hope businesses find our resources useful when they’re making everyday decisions about their waste.”

Local businesses can find simple guides, Need to Know cards, case studies and videos online at www.rightwasterightplace.com or by emailing info@rightwasterightplace.com.