Quality is the watchword in environmental management

Waste management operations, including landfill sites, are increasingly being subjected to quality assurance and environmental audits. LAWE reports on the ISO14001 programme being developed by Waste Recycling Group

Quality is a term that is increasing in importance across the waste management field, and, more particularly, in landfill operations.

The Doncaster-based group has achieved accreditation to BS EN ISO 14001:1966 for its sites at Buckden, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire; Gowy, near Chester, and Welbeck, near Wakefield.

The international standard seeks to ensure consistency and high quality in the management of environmental processes and examines rigorously a company's approach to issues such the environmental monitoring of sites.

Andy Harris, Safety, Health and Environmental Manager for WRG, commented: "WRG set itself a target of registering three of its sites to ISO14001 by the end of 1999, and we succeeded. It is now part of the group's formal environmental objectives that we go on to register the remaining 33 operational landfill sites by the end of 2000."

ISO14001 requires a number of key elements to be in place before registration can be achieved, including:

  • an environmental policy
  • compliance with legislation
  • setting objectives and targets
  • formation of an environmental management programme to achieve objectives and targets
  • internal audit process and management review
  • demonstrating continual improvement within an organisation.
In detail,WRG's extensive waste management facilities extend to 37 operational landfill sites, 18 transfer stations, three liquid treatment plants, one compost site and one energy from waste operation.

The group set itself the target of gaining Environmental Management Accreditation at its waste management facilities over a three-year period: pilot landfill sites (achieved by December 1999 as reported above), remaining landfills (end of 2000), and other principal waste facilities (end of 2001).

Pilot landfill sites
Buckden's facilities cover landfill, transfer station, CA site and leachate treatment plant. Waste types are inert, municipal and special waste, with an annual input of 140,000 tonnes per annum and a life expectancy of 20 years. The site was chosen because of the range of waste management activities undertaken at the site.

Gowy is a medium-sized site with a high input and composting facility, deals with 450,000 tonnes of municipal waste per annum, and has a six year life expectancy. Welbeck is a new large landfill with a compost facility. Some 650,000 tonnes of municipal waste are handled each year. The site has a life expectancy of 18 years.

System selection
WRG chose the ISO Management System the ISO14001 for the following reasons:

  • to improve environmental performance
  • to integrate new companies ­ 3C Waste, Global ­ into WRG
  • to standardise WRG's approach to environmental management.
  • to improve the financial position. ie through risk management.
The first step in April 99 was to develop a comprehensive Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) system for the group. The three pilot sites were chosen, one in each of the principal operating companies. To test the system, the sites selected were sufficiently different to provide a fair trial.

The aim was to develop an integrated system that was an integral part of the day-to-day management of each site. If, at the end of the process the result is just form filling then the initiative will have failed, says WRG. If it has led to an increase in SHE performance and awareness of individuals then it will have succeeded, the group states.

The system is in both electronic and hard copy. The site manager is responsible for the implementation of the system.

The system works through certain key elements ­ identification of environmental issues and potential impacts; monitoring of these issues and reporting results; setting a management programme with objectives and targets; with communication and feedback, plus auditing.

The group sees communication as the key to success. Reporting on the development of the management system was built into routine "operations meetings". All corrective actions, non-conformances and any other problems were recorded, enabling progress towards achieving the accreditation to be constantly monitored.

At the centre, WRG's Group SHE Manager monitored the overall performance and development of the system through attendance at operations meetings.

Site operations
In another aspect of WRG's wide-ranging activities, in waste handling and landfill operations, the group has expanded its equipment fleet with the purchase of a range of nine Caterpillar machines, including the UK's first three 963C WHA track type loaders, a 953C track type loader, three 826G landfill compactors, an 816F landfill compactor and a 962G wheeled loader.

The new 963Cs feature Caterpillar's full waste handling arrangement.


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