Waste Awareness Part 1 – What is Waste?


As a business owner or operator, can you honestly answer this question?

If no, don’t fret! Over the few weeks I’ll be posting a four part series on waste awareness. This all stemmed from our director Matt Harris attending a waste awareness course last week. He brought back some interesting notes and a couple of booklets waste, so I thought I’d enlighten those of you who know as little about waste as I did.

1. Introduction

The management of waste is often seen as an unimportant task which doesn’t require any knowledge about health and safety, protection of the environment or statutory obligation. However, failure to deal with waste effectively can have serious consequences for a business, whilst dealing with it effectively & in a sustainable manner can provide real and tangible benefits.

Businesses can make significant cost savings by reducing their waste (which on average accounts for 4-5% of a company’s operating costs). They can also contribute towards improving their local and national environment, which in turn helps to improve a company’s reputation with its stakeholders.

Research conducted by the Environment Agency points to  SME’s having a lack of knowledge of both environmental legislation and their responsibilities when it comes to waste. As the SME sector is responsible for more than half of the commercial waste produced in the UK, this is a serious cause for concern.

England & Wales produces approximately 430 million tonnes of waste a year (250 million tonnes of waste from household, commerce & industry, 90 million tonnes from agriculture and 95 million tonnes from mining & quarrying). As you can see, this is not an inconsiderable amount of waste that needs to be disposed of.

The cost of dealing with waste is generally underestimated, however, to work out the true cost of waste, you need to consider the following:

  • Raw material wastage;
  • Waste collection and transport;
  • Quality losses (i.e. rejects);
  • Energy, water and other material losses;
  • Handling and storage of waste;
  • Effluent/air emissions abatement plan;
  • Protective equipment and workplace monitoring;
  • Spillages, leaks and contamination;
  • Licensing; and
  • Liability insurance.

By SME’s looking at waste as a resource rather than a problem, they are able to significantly reduce the impact and cost of waste.

2. What is waste?

There are two ways of defining waste:

  1. The process analysis definition – “Anything which doesn’t make it to the final product is waste”; and
  2. The legal definition – Waste is ‘any substance or object…whicht he holder discards or intends or is required to discard’.

With the legal definition, it is important to understand what waste is because once it’s legally defined as waste, it requires the producer to take care of it and keep records and documents differently than if it is not waste.

The different types of waste that can be produced are legally defined by the process or premises from which they’re produced:

  • Household waste arises from dwellings of various types;
  • Municipal waste is collected by or on behalf of the local council and includes household waste, market waste, street sweepings & some commercial waste;
  • Commercial waste comes from premises wholly or mainly used by trade, business, sport, recreation or entertainment; and
  • Industrial waste comes from any factory or industrial process.

Controlled WasteAll of the above classifications are called controlled waste, i.e. the storage, handling, transportation and disposal is controlled by legislation and must meat certain legal requirements. Controlled waste must be handled by competent people regulated by the relevant regulatory agency.

Some controlled wastes have additional classifications and are subject to further regulation because of their nature and the need to handle them differently:

  • Hazardous waste need particular handling and additional controls from the point of waste production to final disposal. Business premises producing hazardous waste may have to register with the Environment Agency; and
  • Clinical waste comes from hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, surgeries and the like but can also include some waste from dwellings. Waste that carries infection shouldn’t be put into normal household waste but needs to be handled differently, and not all clinical waste can be disposed of immediately.

As you can see, there’s more to waste than initially meets the eye, and we’ve only really established what waste really is and its different classifications! For further information on waste & waste management, go to the Chartered Institute of Waste Management’s website.

Just so you know, Matt has gained certification from the Chartered Institute of Waste Management thanks to attending the course last week. As a result, The Organised Cleaning Company can not only provide an organised cleaning service, but we can also carry out waste audit at your premises and help with your waste management requirements. For further details, contact The Organised Cleaning Company on 020 7458 4433.

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