Concerns over construction waste code

Since the introduction of the Waste Code of Practice for the development industry in September, not one single company has made a declaration to the Environment Agency.

The voluntary code, which applies in England and Wales, was developed to provide guidance on sustainable reuse of excavated soils on construction sites without getting tangled up in waste legislation.

The code requires the company involved in the development of the site to send a declaration to the Environment Agency before excavation works begin to confirm that they have followed a series of steps to assess the material that will be reused on the same site, or transferred to a hub site that is part of a cluster.

However, although it is believed that companies are using the code for guidance, none of them have completed this part of the process to date.

Speaking at a London conference, Peter Witherington of the RSK Group said: “There must be many hundreds of sites which are removing soils out there which should technically fall under the scope of the Code of Practice, but are not submitting declarations.”

He said that he believed firms were using the code to some extent, but found that it limited their options for reuse because it did not cover the reuse of soils on other sites, unless they are part of a cluster arrangement.

“My suspicion is that many companies will say ‘we will follow all the requirements of the Code of Practice but we will not submit a declaration to the Environment Agency and say we are not following all of your advice’,” he said.

“Because [the Code of Practice] omits a fairly major area of where people are reusing soil, people will not submit their declarations.”

Jonathan Atkinson, from the Environment Agency’s Groundwater and Contaminated Land team, said: “We are looking now to do site audits on construction sites and if they are not following the Code of Practice and do not have Site Waste Management Plans, they could be in trouble.”

CL: AIRE is helping construction firms to form cluster arrangements, allowing them to transfer soils to other sites within the cluster for reuse while still complying with the code. It is expected to publish guidance on clusters in the coming months.

Kate Martin

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