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Protecting the environment

Waste management is a concern for many businesses, particularly those that store/use fuels, chemicals and other hazardous materials. Removing and disposing of this waste safely is essential for legislative reasons and to protect the environment – infact waste management and its importance was recently highlighted in the COP21 climate meeting in Paris. Alan Scrafton, from leading environmental services provider, Adler & Allan, explains best-practice waste removal, to clean-up and protect the environment

At COP21 in December, International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) president, David Newman, outlined the importance waste management could play in mitigating climate change. He stated that greater emphasis must be placed on materials, saving CO2 emissions through recycling and where this is not possible, using these materials for energy production. According to Newman, a waste system that is working efficiently and at its maximum potential, can reduce up to 15 – 20 per cent of a country’s CO2 emissions, compared to a scene where waste is just dumped. At the moment, waste is ‘dumped’ in 70 per cent of the world.

By law, you must deal responsibly with any waste your business produces. This can be waste caused by commercial activities, construction (or demolition), industry or agriculture. Your duty of care begins when you produce the waste and ends once passed over to a licensed waste disposal business. You are also responsible to check how any waste management provider you use deals with that waste. They must be fully licensed to handle it, in accordance with the Hazardous Waste Regulations.

Waste, particularly of the hazardous variety (such as fuels, chemicals and food waste, including milk and cooking oil) must be classified so it can be dealt with correctly. If you produce or store hazardous waste you must register your premises at gov.uk. Companies that also treat, transport or dispose of waste themselves need a permit to do so. Transporting waste comes under the ADR regulations, which was recently changed to include fuel. To comply, drivers have to be specially trained, using suitable vehicles.

Waste ‘disposal’ should be your last course of action. Good practice waste management should start with prevention, using fewer and less hazardous materials where possible, or looking for alternative ways to complete essential business tasks. ‘Prevention’ could also save your business money, by reducing waste disposal costs, the price of the material in the first place and potentially better, more cost-effective processes.

If possible, waste should be re-used. Fuel polishing, for example, can bring degraded fuel back into operation. Recycling is the next preference, followed by recovery, using anaerobic digestion or incineration for energy creation.

In most cases you can check the waste code or codes associated with your type of waste – it’ll have an asterisk if it’s hazardous. Many products include orange and black danger symbols or red and white hazard pictograms to indicate they’re hazardous.

Hazardous waste must be segregated, not mixing with non-hazardous waste or materials, this includes waste oils with different characteristics. If you do wish to mix hazardous waste, you must apply for an environmental permit and demonstrate that the mixing of these wastes is the best available technique.

Despite the best-laid plans, accidents can happen. If your business stores or transports hazardous waste, then spill and emergency planning and procedure should be part of the Health & Safety policy.

An up-to-date and easy-to-use spill response plan is essential for mitigating the damage and pollution risk.

We use the acronym S.A.F.E to cover the basic steps to spill planning:

Start with a realistic risk assessment and consider how best to mitigate those risks. The role of an organisation’s own staff in a response needs to be clearly thought through and appropriate training and equipment must be provided, maintained and sensibly located to underpin the tasks identified. There are specific spill kits for certain types of waste and the appropriate ones should be located on site.

Action lists are critical time savers and they can ensure that nothing is missed in the heat of the moment. Make the contingency plan easy to navigate and check that the action-lists can be found quickly.
Generally, plans are constructed in three generic phases: strategy, action and operations and data directory. Make sure the action and operations section containing those important first steps is inserted at the front of the plan to avoid losing valuable time.

Find out about nearby sensitive areas and include the details within the plan, prioritise them and ideally plan appropriate response measures for each one.

Exercise and test the plan; find out what works and what doesn’t work. Ensure that all personnel that may have to activate or work within the plan become familiar with it and understand why it exists.

Cleaning up waste safely, and where possible, recycling it, should be a high priority for any business. In the short term, it will help prevent localised pollution and ensure fines are avoided by adhering to legislation, and in the long-term, it goes some way to contributing to the world’s carbon reduction aims. Where this waste is unavoidable, understanding its classification and the appropriate steps for dealing with it is essential.


Where waste has to be disposed of, it must be handled correctly. External waste contractors will provide paperwork so they can manage your waste properly. Paperwork must include the following information:

  • Classification code, also referred to as LoW (List of Waste) or EWC (European Waste Catalogue) code
  • Whether it’s hazardous
  • The types of premises or business where the waste was produced
  • The name of the substance
  • The process that produced the waste
  • Chemical and physical analysis
  • Any special problems, requirements or knowledge related to the waste

About Sarah OBeirne

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