The Waste Hierarchy

The obligation on all waste producers to apply the Waste Hierarchy to their waste was formally introduced into UK legislation through Regulation 12 of the Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/688) on 29th March 2011. (Click on the link below to see the Regulations in full)

The requirements of Regulation 12 are as follows:

Duty in relation to the waste hierarchy

12.—(1) An establishment or undertaking which imports, produces, collects, transports, recovers or disposes of waste, or which as a dealer or broker has control of waste must, on the transfer of waste, take all such measures available to it as are reasonable in the circumstances to apply the following waste hierarchy as a priority order—

  • (a)   prevention;
  • (b)   preparing for re-use;
  • (c)   recycling;
  • (d)   other recovery (for example energy recovery);
  • (e)   disposal.

(2) But an establishment or undertaking may depart from the priority order in paragraph (1) so as to achieve the best overall environmental outcome where this is justified by life-cycle thinking on the overall impacts of the generation and management of the waste.

(3) When considering the overall impacts mentioned in paragraph (2), the following considerations must be taken into account—

  • (a)   the general environmental protection principles of precaution and sustainability;
  • (b)   technical feasibility and economic viability;
  • (c)   protection of resources;
  • (d)   the overall environmental, human health, economic and social impacts.

From 28th September 2011, Regulation 35(d) has required all Waste Transfer Notes to contain a legal declaration confirming “that the transferor has discharged the duty in regulation 12” and requiring the transfer note to be signed by both parties.

For the construction industry (at least, for larger projects over £300,000 in value) a Site Waste Management Plan compliant with the 2008 Regulations should, if properly completed, provide sufficient proof that the Regulation 12 Duty has been discharged should it ever be questioned.

But what of other industries and businesses that produce waste? How many businesses have written a Waste Management Plan for their premises to ensure they comply with the requirements of Regulation 12?

Or, more to the point, how many businesses have recognised the true cost of the waste that they throw away ( and taken steps to improve their efficiency by looking at the resource use and waste disposal to reduce their costs and improve their profitability. So instead of regarding preparation of a Waste Management Plan as “just another chore”, why not take the opportunity to improve your business and reduce your costs as well as complying with legislation?

I offer a full Waste & Resource Management service based on process mapping, addressing the waste hierarchy, and including the preparation of site-specific Resource Management Plans for industrial & manufacturing premises –


2 Responses to The Waste Hierarchy

  1. Andrew Kinsey says:


    Have you ever been questioned by the EA about compliance?

    I’ve found little interest from them in our SWMPs so far to date. Not sure if this is because they have other more pressing concerns, or if it is because they know we do follow the processes and therefore don’t feel the need to have a look.



    • Barry Smith says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Had a thorough “routine” EA visit on this at one site in the early days, but none since then. I think its the old story – it could be “regulated” but I suspect that SWMPs will only be examined if something else goes wrong, for example some waste ending up where it shouldn’t. The SWMP can then do one of two things – demonstrate that you did the checks properly and the event happened despite your efforts (ie defend you) or that you never did the proper checks in the first place (ie damn you). Given that waste is one of the big issues for the EA, I’d rather just keep the SWMPs being done properly to give a layer of protection in case anything ever goes wrong! Bad publicity can cost you a fortune – far more than any fine!

      Regards, Barry.

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