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The next level of waste management

Tara Donaghy of the McGrath Group examines some of the practical steps facilities managers can take to help clients implement the waste hierarchy.

The hierarchy of waste is a system which ranks waste management options in order of environmental preference - prevention and minimisation should be considered before re-use, which is preferable to recycling and energy recovery, with disposal (landfill) as the last resort.

The ranking of the various waste management options is based on current scientific research on how the options impact on the environment in terms of climate change, air quality, water quality and resource depletion. With a few exceptions such as aggregates, emissions generated by the transport of waste are a very small fraction of the total impacts, and are overshadowed by the environmental benefits of recycling.

The concept of the waste hierarchy is officially recognised in UK legislation on waste. It is referenced in Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive, which was revised in 2011 and requires companies to confirm they have applied the hierarchy of waste management in the transfer of waste.

Create a waste profile Before the various measures of

the hierarchy can be examined and explored you must first discover


exactly which items and materials are being discarding as waste. This requires a waste audit to be carried out, in which representative samples or loads are analysed. You should ask your waste provider or consultant to arrange for this to be carried out. It will typically involve segregating the waste mechanically into individual material streams and recording their weight and a description of the items. Armed with this baseline data you will be able to create a waste profile, which you can then use to apply the waste hierarchy and a waste management plan.

The application of the hierarchy is something of an emerging discipline and there are a number of different approaches and initiatives you can take. If significant volumes of waste are involved you may wish to hire a waste consultant to advise you on the most effect ways of applying the measures in the hierarchy. Alternatively, you may wish to use some of the following practical suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Prevention &

Minimisation Prevention is always better than a cure, and this is the most effective and efficient way of minimising the amount of waste generated. There are a many aspects of a company’s operations that can be scrutinised to prevent waste being generated at source.

Your first port of call should be procurement; scrutinise the systems used to purchase raw materials, equipment and consumables then discuss ways in which new purchasing strategies can be

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established to encourage waste prevention. Consider replacing items with more durable, concentrated, re- useable or high quality alternatives that will help you retain materials for longer.

Examine alternative sources of materials that arrive in less packaging. This may involve trial and error but many suppliers are investigating and implementing more efficient packaging techniques that could help reduce your waste volumes.

You may consider hiring or leasing rather than purchasing equipment that is only used occasionally. Using the services of a professional cost consultant may sound extreme but the savings that experts can generate may dwarf the fees involved.

If your client provides in-house catering facilities explore the feasibility of replacing throw-away cups, plates and utensils with re-usable alternatives. There will of course be of cost and hygiene considerations, however it is worth exploring these options in light of increasing disposal costs.

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