According to Wrap’s ‘Reducing your construction waste’ report, the UK construction industry uses 400 million tonnes of material every year. 25 million tonnes of that number goes straight to landfill. A vast proportion of that waste is able to be effectively recycled, reducing the need for virgin material use and lowering the burden on our natural environments. 

Additionally, it means that construction companies can save money on buying new materials. There is a way to capitalise upon these benefits and that’s by developing a site waste management plan (SWMP). This blog will go into how you can do that.

What Is a Site Waste Management Plan?

Essentially, a site waste management plan sets out how waste will be managed and disposed of, through each stage of its lifecycle. The SWMP includes information on:

  • Who is responsible for the waste management.
  • What types of waste will be generated within a project.
  • How much waste is projected to be produced and how it will be measured. 
  • How the waste will be managed i.e. it may be able to be reused or be marked for recycling.
  • What machinery will be utilised to deal with the waste, such as baler machines or compactors. This depends on the type and quantity of waste produced.
  • What contractors will support the waste management process and what will their role be. 

Previously, an SWMP was put in place for construction projects in the UK that were valued at over £300,000. Each SWMP had to comply with the regulations detailed in The Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008.

However, those regulations were repealed in 2013 by the UK Government who were looking to reduce red tape associated with a waste framework directive. Now, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is hoping that businesses will use SWMPs on a voluntary basis. 

In some circumstances, construction projects still require an SWMP, usually ones that have to comply with the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification, a certification used to assess the sustainability of buildings. 

The SWMP works along the same principles as the waste management hierarchy, where there are certain stages that come before disposal for certain types of waste, such as reuse or recycling. Like the waste hierarchy, the overall purpose of an SWMP is to limit the amount of waste that goes to landfill and increase the use of recycled materials. 

So what do you include in your SWMP?

Developing an SWMP

SWMP can cover all aspects of the waste lifecycle in construction, beginning with the type of materials you purchase and finishing with how any waste is disposed of. Each SWMP must answer a number of significant questions, such as:

  • Can any materials purchased be recycled or reused?
  • Can packaging materials be recycled?
  • Does your site have significant storage space for waste and the appropriate tools for segregation (such as bins or compactors)?
  • Will you be able to determine what proportions of your waste can be recycled if segregated properly?
  • Do you have collection services in place for any waste that can only go to landfill?
  • Have you considered the costs of the Landfill tax?

Any SWMP worth its salt will have had these considerations dealt with and prepared for in advance. 

The main responsibility of an SWMP is to denote just how waste will be dealt with, with a detailed plan for reducing, reusing, recycling and disposing of waste types. If you’re able to quantify tonnage early, you’ll be able to decide which disposal methods work best for you. 

For example, in the case of large amounts of polythene being produced through bespoke construction materials, you can utilise machinery, such as mill size balers, to reduce the volume of this waste and save you space and money on waste collections. 

SWMPs need to include the waste hierarchy and where your waste types fit on that hierarchy, alongside the related on and off-site methods for handling the waste. It also needs to include special arrangements for any types of waste that can’t be dealt with in conventional matters, such as hazardous or toxic waste. 

This should include the waste hierarchy, on-site and off-site options for handling the waste, and any special arrangements you need to make for hazardous waste.

Overall, the main parts of an SWMP will cover:

  • Waste types and amounts
  • On-site waste storage and segregation
  • Machinery utilisation
  • Disposal methods
  • Collection services


Risks To The SWMP

Creating and implementing is not without its risks, but these risks don’t necessarily come from the SWMP itself. Rather, they come from those who are meant to be implementing it. 

For example, your staff need to be fully aware of and work in line with the SWMP. This includes subcontractors.

Without knowledge of and training for the SWMP, it won’t be used. Training needs to ensure the importance of the SWMP is acknowledged and the methods for recording waste measurements and waste disposal techniques are known. 

For example, what happens if one of your employees disposes of waste in the wrong container? Or they dispose of waste off-site in an effort to speed up disposal? There’s even the possibility of fly-tipping, which can result in fines of up to £50,000

With the risks of poor waste management, it’s more than worthwhile to make sure the SWMP is well-developed and well communicated, otherwise, you won’t be able to experience the benefits.

What Are The Advantages of a Site Waste Management Plan?

Implementing an effective SWMP across a construction site guarantees a number of impressive advantages:

  • Lower environmental impact: The environmental costs of materials and waste can be reduced, with fewer virgin materials being used and less recyclable waste going to landfill. 
  • Better prepare yourself for future projects: Utilising an SWMP gets easier every time. Even if it’s your first time using one – that’s fantastic – but this also means that you’ll be able to save more and more with each progressive construction project. 
  • Improve your reputation and win new business: Customers will be able to see your efforts to save money, reduce environmental impact and work to best practices for site waste management – the kind of performance that impresses people.
  • Increased time savings: Any inspections, problems or queries can more effectively be satisfied with a visible workflow concerning your waste production, alongside the data that goes with it. 
  • Compliance: A more visible approach to dealing with waste means there’s less chance of illicit behaviour from people looking to quickly dispose of waste – usually in an irresponsible manner. 

Similarly, when you include machinery use in your site waste management plan, machinery such as vertical balers and portable compactors, you’re saving valuable time and energy. Similarly, you’re also saving on labour time and reduced costs of collection

If you’ve experienced any of the situations we’ve spoken about, you’re more than likely looking for the ways that you can help to reduce your costs and improve your waste management strategy. Well, we’ve got the guide for you.

How To Improve Your Waste Management Strategy

With information on waste management best practices, waste audits and the benefits of waste management machinery, you’ll be able to turn the tide on ineffective or needlessly expensive waste management strategies. 

To create truly efficient site waste management plans and strategies, this is the guide for you. Click the link below to download your copy today.

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