More waste comes from construction and demolition than from any other single source in the UK and Government has been consulting on the idea of legally binding plans covering how waste will be dealt with on all but the smallest of sites.

These Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) would look to reduce the quantity of materials used, encourage reuse and recycling and consider environmentally sustainable disposal where this was not possible.

Around 13% of material delivered to construction sites goes unused while up to a third ends up in landfill sites.

Three quarters of responses to the Government consultation on SWMPs was in favour of the idea – though it is worth remembering that some of those opposed might remain tactfully silent on the issue out of fear of being labelled anti-environment.

Defra believes SWMPs could cut around 109m tonnes of wastage a year.

The Minister for Waste, Joan Ruddock, said: “This level of support for our proposals is very welcome.

“The Government is determined to drive down waste production and increase recycling and re-use. It is very good to have the backing of the industry as we move towards new Regulations.”

The views will now feed into Defra’s preparation of regulations to come into force in England in 2008.

During construction, the plans would be updated to record what actually happens to the waste, including the legitimate disposal of materials that cannot be reused or recycled.

This audit trail would reduce the potential for fly-tipping and increase the accountability of contractors. They should also help the construction industry to get maximum value out of its waste and make better use of resources.

The issues addressed in the consultation included whether to make SWMPs a statutory requirement or to continue the existing voluntary approach, the minimum level at which a project should require a SWMP, the level of detail they should offer, and how the SWMP can improve resource efficiency.

Sam Bond

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