Code red

Gill Ross-Jones, HazRed Project Manager at the Environment Agency, explains how the project aims to help small businesses reduce their hazardous waste

The new Hazardous Waste Regulations which came into force last month have expanded the list of substances classed as hazardous. As a result, many businesses are finding themselves hazardous waste producers for the first time. The regulations, brought in to improve the tracking and safe management of hazardous waste – from the producer all the way to the disposal or treatment facility – will also mean increased waste disposal costs for business.

Our hope is that these increased costs will help to stimulate hazardous waste minimisation amongst businesses. This is essential if we are to stop the increase in potentially harmful waste production and reduce our dependency on landfill sites. However, we recognise that many smaller businesses will require help and support in identifying and implementing ways to manage and prevent hazardous waste.

The Environment Agency recently took soundings amongst 1,000 SMEs across 10 key sectors. This research revealed that only 28% were aware of the new hazardous waste legislation. Clearly, if we are to ensure compliance, there is a need for small businesses to understand the changes, but there is also a need for action to reduce the creation of waste and minimise waste disposal costs.

HazRed is a new EU-Life funded partnership project being led by the Environment Agency to help address these issues. The three-year project aims to demonstrate the benefits of a sector-led approach to working with small businesses to reduce hazardous waste.

HazRed will work with 120 businesses across six priority sectors to set hazardous waste reduction targets and develop waste reduction plans. These sectors are:

  • construction;
  • treatment and coating of metals;
  • maintenance and repair of motor vehicles;
  • photographic processing;
  • manufacture of speciality organic chemicals; and,
  • manufacture of machinery and equipment.
  • The six sectors were chosen in close consultation with a wide range of environmental and industry experts and included analysis of the number of small businesses in each sector and the volume of hazardous wastes produced.

    Participating businesses will receive on-site guidance, from a specialist adviser, on the implementation of waste management plans and the evaluation of potential cost savings. The project will seek to identify barriers to action and best practice mechanisms to help inform effective hazardous waste reduction strategies in other sectors and across Europe.

    Reaching and working with small businesses is crucial to the success of HazRed. Our recent research has shown that businesses rely on a range of advisors for information on hazardous waste, including waste management contractors, trade associations and regulators.

    The initiative will draw on partners’ individual experience and expertise – such as Envirowise’s extensive experience in working with small businesses to minimise waste and increase profits – so as to feed existing best practice into the development of hazardous waste management plans.

    Ultimately the project seeks to develop a sector-based approach to hazardous waste reduction. It is anticipated that this will help inform practice in the

    UK, Ireland and other EU member states.

    For more information visit

    One of the focused sectors of HazRed is the maintenance and repair of motor vehicles. Peter Barlow, environmental, health & safety adviser for the Retail Motor Industry Federation, shares his views

    Are your members aware of the new Hazardous Waste Regulations?

    Yes, the vast majority of our members are aware of the changes, because they have been encouraged to register. We can’t be certain that the message gets through to everybody, but there have certainly been a number of communications to make sure they register on time.

    Is the introduction of the HazRed project a step in the right direction?

    Undoubtedly. Everybody’s wanting to see how the regulations will be applied on a local basis and what changes they’re going to face. HazRed is money very well spent to try to look at the various sectors.

    But do you think it will really be enough?

    I’m somewhat sceptical about the extent to which small businesses will be able to reduce hazardous waste, but I think the project’s very existence will alert people to start thinking about things.

    What is the difficulty for the repair and maintenance trade?

    Well, nothing is controlled by them. If you take, for example, a normal service and repair workshop, the amount of oil you put in is determined by the vehicle, as is the amount of oil you take out and the specifications associated with that vehicle.

    So more needs to be done at the design and construction phase?

    Yes, that’s where it has to be addressed. The manufacturer, of course, is looking at the life and the efficiency of the engine; the oil is an important part of that, so you might just be shifting the environmental problem somewhere else.

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