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Waste Awareness Part 1 – What is Waste?

The SME sector is responsible for over half of the commercial waste produced in the UK. Research by the Environment Agency also confirms that SME’s have little knowledge about their waste responsibilities and environmental legislation. A common question amongst SME’s is – what is waste?

What is waste?

There are two ways of defining waste:

  1. The process analysis definition: Anything which doesn’t make it to the final product is waste; and
  2. The legal definition: Any substance or object…which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard.

When a substance or object is legally defined as waste, the producer has to take care of it and keep documented records. Therefore it is important to understand the legal definition of waste.

The different types of waste

Once the question of ‘what is waste’ has been answered, there are different types of waste to consider. The types of waste produced are legally defined by the process or premises from which they’re produced:

  • Household waste arises from dwellings of various types;
  • Municipal waste is collected by or on behalf of the local council. This includes household waste, market waste, street sweepings & some commercial waste;
  • Commercial waste comes from premises wholly or mainly used by trade, business, sport, recreation or entertainment; and
  • Industrial waste comes from any factory or industrial process.

All of the above classifications are called controlled waste. This means that the storage, handling, transportation and disposal is controlled by legislation and must meat certain legal requirements. Controlled waste must be handled by competent people regulated by the Environment Agency.

Hazardous & Clinical Waste

Some controlled wastes have additional classifications and are subject to further regulation. Because of their nature, the following types of waste need to be handled differently:

  • Hazardous waste need particular handling. Additional controls are required from the point of waste production to final disposal. Business premises producing hazardous waste may have to register with the Environment Agency; and
  • Clinical waste which comes from hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, surgeries and can also include some waste from dwellings. Waste that carries infection cannot be put into normal household waste. It needs to be handled differently and not all clinical waste can be disposed of immediately.

Waste Management

The management of waste is often seen as an unimportant task for SME’s. Few resources are allocated by SME’s to It is acquiring knowledge about waste management in the context of health & safety, statutory obligations and the impact on the environment.

However, failure to deal with waste effectively can have serious consequences for businesses. Dealing with waste effectively and in a sustainable manner can provide real and tangible benefits.

The cost of waste

Waste production and disposal on average accounts for 4-5% of an SME’s operating costs. The cost of dealing with waste is generally underestimated.  To work out the true cost of waste a business needs to consider the following:

  • Raw material wastage;
  • Waste collection and transport;
  • Quality losses (i.e. rejects);
  • Energy, water and other material losses;
  • Handling and storage of waste;
  • Effluent/air emissions abatement plan;
  • Protective equipment and workplace monitoring;
  • Spillages, leaks and contamination;
  • Licensing; and
  • Liability insurance.

SME’s can look at waste as a resource rather than a problem. By reducing waste production, businesses can make significant cost savings. They can also contribute towards improving their local environment and enhancing the company’s reputation with stakeholders.

If you have any questions about effective waste reduction and waste management for your office, call The Organised Cleaning Company on 020 7458 4433 and talk to one of our team today!

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About The Author

Matt Harris

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