Profit through efficiency

Site Waste Management Plans are soon to become the law for projects of more than £250,000. Mike Payne of Envirowise explains how this will result in significant benefits for companies

Escalating waste disposal costs, and increasing pressure from existing and potential clients, are key drivers for construction companies to cut the 100M tonnes of waste generated annually.

And now major new legislation, set to come into force next year, will push issues of waste management and resource efficiency even further up the industry agenda.

Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP), originally developed as a DTI Voluntary Code of Practice, will become a legal requirement for all construction projects of more than £250,000 in value. In addition, a SWMP to document and control waste on site is a minimum standard requirement in the government's new Code for Sustainable Homes.

Those who can demonstrate a commitment to sort, reuse and recycle construction waste can score above the minimum standard.

But compliance is far from the only incentive for companies to implement a SWMP. The plans provide a useful structure for a successful waste management programme, encompassing all elements - from pre-planning through to project completion.

SWMPs could therefore be the key to unlocking an array of business benefits open to environmentally responsible companies.

These include an improved reputation and, crucially, cost savings that go straight to the bottom line.

So, how exactly can an SWMP help companies? Well, as they take the form of a written document, any company that uses these plans is armed with evidence of compliance.

This can be used to demonstrate the fulfilment of contractual obligations, between the contractor and client or developer - as well as the opportunity to highlight good practice initiatives.

For example, the Hazardous Waste Regulations, introduced in July 2005, expanded the list of waste materials classified as hazardous and introduced new controls for their movement. These regulations resulted in some businesses becoming handlers of hazardous waste for the first time.

All businesses which produce and handle construction waste must demonstrate duty of care by ensuring waste produced is safely disposed of or recovered. SWMPs can act as a framework for compliance with environmental legislation, assist with risk management, and help companies establish good working relationships with regulators.

The SWMP is a highly adaptable document and can be modified to suit the specific needs of a company or individual project. Focusing largely on on-site operations, all SWMPs will, as a bare minimum, identify:
  • An individual responsible for resource management
  • The types of waste that will be generated
  • Resource management options for these wastes
  • The use of appropriate and licensed waste management contractors
  • A plan for monitoring and reporting on resource use and the quantity of waste
Ideally, the SWMP should be drafted at the pre-planning stage of a project. This gives companies the opportunity to extend the SWMP to encompass associated processes such as materials procurement and design, and as a result make further efficiencies.

By engaging with suppliers and designers at this stage, the plans can become a mechanism for cutting down on the materials that become waste from the outset. In this case, the SWMP could become an effective tool for facilitating effective two-way communication, as waste issues are fed back to suppliers and design teams from project to project.

As with any similar programme, the success of a SWMP lies in the level of buy-in. The development of the SWMP should always take place in partnership with the wider project team, and be embedded within company policy. Once buy-in is established throughout the supply chain, the company becomes open to the full level of savings that are available.

The Envirowise programme provides UK construction companies with free, independent and confidential advice and support on practical ways to increase profits through resource efficiency. Companies interested in addressing resource efficiency, including the implementation of SWMPs, can access help via a number of different avenues.

Confidential advice can be sought via the Envirowise helpline on 0800 585 794. Alternatively, there are useful publications at www.envirowise.gov.uk/construction. Companies may also be eligible for a free on-site resource efficiency review

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