UKCG Environmental Training Standard

The UKCG Environmental Training Standard  was published in July 2015, and recognises the leadership role that UK Contractors Group member companies play in driving best practice within the construction sector. It sets down the minimum training expected for individuals to undertake their roles on member’s sites to be able to demonstrate their competency through formal environmental training, including the CITB SEATS course.

This document sets down the standard of environmental training applicable to those who manage, supervise or undertake construction related activities as follows:

Site Managers (including those employed by supply chains):

  1. CITB SEATS+ Course (SEATS plus additional management modules); or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of TWO DAYS, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Supervisors (including those employed by supply chains)

  1.  CITB SEATS Course; or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of ONE DAY, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Operatives (including those employed by supply chains)

A relevant competency scheme card including the CITB Health Safety & Environment Test where required, and renewed as necessary.

Note – in July 2015, the UKCG and NSCC (National Specialist Contractor’s Council) merged to form Build UK. A list of the members of the new body can be found here


Separate business waste collections

Back in 2011, Regulations 13 & 14 of the Waste Regulations required that from 1st January 2015, all waste collection authorities must make arrangements for the separate collection of dry recyclates of waste glass, paper, plastic and metal, the implication being that businesses would have to separately store these wastes at source. The regulations did however permit comingling of these wastes in a single container for collection and separation elsewhere, rather than requiring four separate containers for these waste streams.

However, Regulation 13 was amended and clarified in Regulation 2(4) of the Waste (England & Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1889) as follows:

“The duties in this regulation apply where separate collection—

(a) is necessary to ensure that waste undergoes recovery operations in accordance with Articles 4 and 13 of the Waste Framework Directive and to facilitate or improve recovery; and

(b) is technically, environmentally and economically practicable.

So, where an existing waste collection service already includes suitable waste segregation and recovery processes, such as construction waste going to a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) which will probably report in excess of 95% recovery, separation at source and separate collections are not “necessary to ensure that waste undergoes recovery operations” and is not required under current legislation. However, if a waste collection authority has previously collected mixed waste and simply taken it to a disposal site (landfill, incinerator, etc) without any further segregation, segregation at source and separate collection is now required – provided of course that this is “technically, environmentally and economically practicable“.

Waste Transfer Notes

The need for a written description of a waste to accompany every waste movement so that the person receiving it knows what it is and can deal with it appropriately has been one of the four fundamental duties of the Waste Duty of Care since it was introduced into legislation in s.34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Over the years, this gradually evolved into a requirement for (in England and Wales) a “Waste Transfer Note” or “WTN”.

WTN 500Detailed requirements for the content of a WTN were brought up to date in Regulation 35 of The Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/988), all of which was incorporated onto the standard form produced by the Environment Agency and readily available online. However, the use of this form was not mandatory providing that any alternative WTN form contained all of the information required by Regulation 35. This permitted larger waste companies to produce their own versions of it for issue to their customers whenever waste was collected from site.

On 6th April 2014, s.6 of the 2014 amendment to the Waste Regs (SI 2014/656) replaced “transfer note” in Regulation 35 with “written information”, permitting a much wider range of documentation than formal WTNs, such as invoices or skip exchange notes – however the need to provide all the Reg.35 information remains.

At the same time “edoc“, the “electronic Duty of Care” online waste documentation and tracking system, has come into use, permitting companies to register their waste activity online, and to register and track waste movements electronically without the need for paper documentation.

Overall, the relaxation of WTN requirements permit a far more flexible approach to proving compliance with the waste Duty of Care, but does not remove any of the obligations on waste producers to be able to demonstrate and document compliance with the Duty if challenged by the Regulators, including provision of all the information required by Regulation 35 that would previously have been documented on a formal Waste Transfer Note.

Invasive Species “Control Order” Proposals

At present in England and Wales, whilst it is a criminal offence to “cause to spread” invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed, there are no real controls on allowing to continue growing on your land if you already have it, However authorities in Scotland have for some time been able to apply “Control Orders” to existing infestations, and as a result of new European pressure, the Law Commission reviewed the Scottish approach during 2014, and made recommendations for the introduction of essentially similar legislation in England

The 74 page report makes 45 separate recommendations, starting from a recommendation that “there should be a power to make species control orders to control invasive non-native species in England and Wales modelled broadly on the procedure introduced by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.”

In taking this approach, the Law Comission recommends that species that could be controlled by such an order should be BOTH:

  • Invasive – if not controlled would have an adverse effect on biodiversity, other environmental interests, or social or economic interests, AND
  • either an animal or plant not ordinarily resident in or a regular visitor to Great Britain, or one listed in Schedule 9 of WACA 1981

For such species, the recommended process would follow four distinct steps:

  1. Investigation – recommendations include powers to permit regulators to enter land (but not buildings) to establish whether or not a species is present that meets the tests above.
  2. Species Control Agreement – a voluntary agreement between the regulator and the landowner / occupier to carry out works to control or eradicate invasive non-native species. If an agreement is put into place and the works are carried out, the process would stop at this point.
  3. Species Control Order – a requirement for the landowner / occupier to carry out specific works to control or eradicate invasive non-native species.
  4. Enforcement – Should the works agreed in a Control Agreement or specifies in a Control Order not be carried out, the authority can carry out the works themselves, or arrange for them to be carried out.

The are also provisions for omitting the first two steps in emergency situations. However, some of the more interesting recommendations are tucked away within the report, including the recommendation that the cost of control or eradication should be borne by the public purse, except in instances where the situation has been made worse by wilful action or neglect by the landowner / occupier. Similarly, any proposed control actions should be proportional to the wider risk posed should the species remain unchecked on that site.

Overall, in the case of invasive plant species, I could see this being primarily used where infestations are spreading across boundaries, or in instances where plants have been spread through neglect of proper procedures. It will be interesting the see the final form of the legislation once implemented.

EU Timber Regulations

On 3rd March 2013, The Timber and Timber Products (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/0233) came into effect, implementing EU 995/2010, commonly known as the ” EU Timber Regulations” (EUTR). Under these regulations, anyone placing a wide range of wood-based products on the market for the first time anywhere in the European Union is required to ensure that they are from legal sources and do not contain materials from illegal harvesting activities. Some of the offences under the legislation are:

  • Reg.4(a) to place illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber for sale within the EU
  • Reg.4(b) to fail to exercise a “due diligence system” to prevent the use of illegally harvested timber in the EU
  • Reg.4(c) to fail to maintain and evaluate the due diligence system used
  • Reg.4(d) to fail to be able to identify suppliers and purchasers throughout the supply chain
  • Reg.4(e) to fail to maintain records for at least 5 years, or to supply them to a competent authority on request.

The first hurdle to overcome is when is timber “illegal”? The European legislation clarifies this in preamble clause (14) as:

In the absence of an internationally agreed definition, the legislation of the country where the timber was harvested, including regulations as well as the implementation in that country of relevant international conventions to which that country is party, should be the basis for defining what constitutes illegal logging.”

So, who has to do “due diligence” to prevent the use of illegal timber? At first glance the obvious target of this legislation are the producers & merchants of EU and imported timber & products, but the Regulations apply to a wide range of products, not only solid timber, but processed wood such as furniture, wood pellets (for fuel), and pulp products such as notebooks, serviettes and paper cups. (A comprehensive guide to the products that the Regulations apply to can be found on the NEPCon website.) Preamble clause (15) clarifies due diligence obligations as:

Many timber products undergo numerous processes before and after they are placed on the internal market for the first time. In order to avoid imposing any unnecessary administrative burden, only operators that place timber and timber products on the internal market for the first time should be subject to the due diligence system, while a trader in the supply chain should be required to provide basic information on its supplier and its buyer to enable the traceability of timber and timber products.”

So, if you are an EU manufacturer sourcing your materials from EU vendors (ie products that have already been placed on the market in the EU), other than maintaining proper records of purchases and sales to comply with 4(d)&(e) above, it’s unlikely to have much impact on your business. If however, you source wood-based products from outside the EU, either as raw materials for products you manufacture or import wood-based goods for sale, you have an obligation to exercise due diligence. The Regulations permit you to establish your own DD system, or to make the use of one established by a monitoring organisation such as the one available to Timber Trade Federation members. Preamble clause (17) defines a due diligence system as follows:

The due diligence system includes three elements inherent to risk management: access to information, risk assessment and mitigation of the risk identified. The due diligence system should provide access to information about the sources and suppliers of the timber and timber products being placed on the internal market for the first time, including relevant information such as compliance with the applicable legislation, the country of harvest, species, quantity, and where applicable sub-national region and concession of harvest. On the basis of this information, operators should carry out a risk assessment. Where a risk is identified, operators should mitigate such risk in a manner proportionate to the risk identified, with a view to preventing illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber from being placed on the internal market.”

The Regulations do however recognise that many organisations already have in place measures to prevent the use of illegal timber, and providing they meet the requirements of the Regulations, do not require the implementation of new due diligence systems. The Regulations also recognise the role of good practice in the forestry sector, certification, and other third party verification schemes that ensure compliance with legislation as part of a due diligence system. It is worth noting that widely-recognised sustainable timber certification schemes such as FSC, PEFC etc. have “legality” as a prerequisite for certification, and so company procedures that require that only sustainable timber certified under these schemes is used should automatically comply with due diligence requirements provided that such procedures are rigorously implemented.

There are a number of timber products that are exempt from legislation, but these tend to be very specific applications except for two; waste wood that has completed its life-cycle is exempt, and so are printed goods where the print medium is the essential product – so books, magazines, photographs etc. are exempt, but toilet paper – even if it contains print – is not.

Despite the very specific requirements set down in the legislation, the prospects for this to be become “light touch” legislation are very good as the legislation also recognises Voluntary Partnership Agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries. Where the timber from that country is produced in accordance with the VPA it is automatically considered to be legal, simplifying the due diligence process, and creating commercial pressure for more countries to enter into VPAs. And clearly, the more VPAs there are in place, the less the need for the legislation … But in the meantime, compliance with the Regulations is a legal requirement, and we all need to get to grips with it.

Why? Dip into these articles about illegal logging

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 –

WACA 1981 Schedule 9 Plant List Update

The two terrestrial plants that have been on Part II of Schedule 9 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act since it’s introduction in 1981 – Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed – are now quite well known, recognized and properly controlled on construction sites. However, on 6th April 2010, a major update of Schedule 9 came into effect, adding a great many new plants to Schedule 9, many of which are relatively well known as common garden or ornamental pond plants.

My consolidated list of Schedule 9 plants (England &  Wales) with the four original (1981) plants highlighted in bold now looks like:

Terrestrial Plants:

  • Allium paradoxum (Few-flowered Leek), A. triquetrum (Three-cornered Garlic)
  • Carpobrotus edulis (Hottentot Fig)
  • Cotoneaster bullatus (Hollyberry Cotoneaster), C. horizontalis (Cotoneaster), C. integrifolius (Entire-leaved Cotoneaster), C. microphyllus (Small-leaved Cotoneaster), C. simonsii (Himalayan Cotoneaster)
  • Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora (Montbretia)
  • Disphyma crassifolium (Purple Dewplant)
  • Fallopia japonica (Japanese Knotweed), F. japonica x F. sachalinensis (Hybrid Knotweed), F. sachalinensis (Giant Knotweed)
  • Gunnera tinctoria (Giant Rhubarb)
  • Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hogweed)
  • Impatiens glandulifolius (Himalayan Balsam)
  • Lamiastrum galeobdolon subs argentatum (Variagated Yellow Archangel)
  • Parthenocissus inserta (False Virginia Creeper), P. quinquefolia (Virginia  Creeper)
  • Rhododendron luteum (Yellow Azalea), R. ponticum (Rhododendron), R. ponticum x R. maximum (Rhododendron)
  • Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose)

Aquatic Plants

  • Azolla filiculooides (Water Fern)
  • Cabomba caroliniana (Fanwort, aka Carolina Water-Shield)
  • Crassula helmsii (Australian Swamp Stonecrop, aka New Zealand Pygmyweed)
  • Eichhornia crassipes (Water Hyacinth)
  • Elodea spp (All Waterweeds)
  • Grateloupia luxurians (Red Algae)
  • Hydrocotyle ranunculoides (Floating Pennywort)
  • Lagarosiphon major (Curly Waterweed)
  • Ludwigia grandiflora (Water Primrose), L. peploides (Floating Water Primrose), L. uruguayensis (Water Primrose)
  • Myriophyllum aquaticum (Parrot’s Feather)
  • Pistia stratoites (Water Lettuce)
  • Sagittaria latifolia (Duck Potato)
  • Salvinia molesta (Giant Salvinia)

Marine Plants

  • Codium fragile (Green Seafingers)
  • Macrocystis pyrifera (Giant Kelp)
  • Sargassum muticum (Japanese Seaweed)

As has been the case with Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed for the past 30 years, it is now a Section 14 offence to cause any of these plants to grow in the wild, and this includes inadvertently spreading plant material during construction operations. Any soil or plant waste containing viable growing material from any of the above plants is classed as “controlled waste” under the Waste Duty of Care, and must be dealt with as such.

I now cover invasive plants as part of my Wildlife & Biodiversity Masterclass. Please contact me if you would like more details of this course.

Waste Duty of Care

The waste Duty of Care came into being in the UK with the introduction of the Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Section 34 of this Act places a duty on anyone who “imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste or, as a broker, has control of such waste” (i.e. virtually anyone who deals with waste) to ensure that:

  1. No person contravenes Section 33 of the Act, ie disposes of waste unlawfully, or in a manner to likely cause harm to human health or the environment.
  2. Waste does not escape from control
  3. On transfer, the waste is only transferred to an authorized person
  4. On transfer, an adequate description accompanies the waste

(This is my “plain English” version of the legislation, but if you really want to read the actual words, you can find them here:

To comply with the first condition, you need to ensure that wherever your waste goes has a valid permit under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (2010 No.675), or is registered for an exemption to a Permit. But having a “Permit” in itself is not enough – the permit also has to apply to the waste you are sending to them, and most permits will have a schedule of waste types that the site can accept attached to it. In a perfect world, you will have obtained a copy of the Permit and it’s Schedule for your chosen disposal site and checked that your waste is listed before you send any waste to them.

The second condition sounds easy – just have the right sort of container for the waste, but it can also be applied to site security, as theft of materials that may be subsequently discarded is also an “escape from control”. The container also has to be appropriate for storage and transport of the waste too, so open skips of light materials that could blow away would contravene this condition, as would loss of materials onto roads during transport to the disposal point. And its not just the carrier who is responsible for this, but also the producer of the waste (ie the contractor), so overfilling skips to save money is not a good idea!

The third brings us into the territory of the “Carrier’s License”. Anyone transporting waste in the UK must be registered with a Regulator (normally the Environment Agency for most construction waste carriers) and if suspected of transporting waste without a License, vehicles can be stopped and searched, and if waste is found, the vehicles seized. But most contractors don’t realize that this also applies to their own vehicles too if they transport waste to a “yard skip” or other disposal point (such as is often the case on small jobs). Its not expensive to register, and one registration covers all company vehicles.

(Register as a Carrier on the Environment Agency site at:

The final point covers the requirements for what is commonly known as the Waste Transfer Note (WTN). If you are using a reputable waste management company, the chances are that their standard documentation will comply with these requirements, but if you are using a smaller company who tries to exchange skips without a proper WTN, you are probably breaching legislation, so be warned. One point – all WTNs are now required to make reference to the six-figure LOW (or EWC) Code so for example describing a waste skip as “builders rubble” is not sufficient – the WTN should at least make reference to the waste as “17 09 04”, and preferably include the standard waste description as well.

(The List of Waste Regs 2005 contains all the standard LOW codes in use in the UK, but runs to 40 closely space pages. I have my own much shorter list of the ones that I think are most useful to contractors – if you would like a copy, just drop me an e-mail – see my “Contact me” page for the address)