What a waste

A new report from Qflow reveals that one in three legally-required waste transfer notes are non-compliant, revealing huge gaps in our understanding of how waste is managed in the construction sector.

Our construction sector will not meet its environmental and emissions goals until firms become truly and consistently compliant with waste management processes,” says Brittany Harris, CEO at Qflow. Her comments come after Qflow analysed more than 90,000 legally-required waste transfer notes (WTNs) from June 2018 to April 2023 and discovered a concerning average waste compliance rate of just 64%.

This means that one in three legally-required fields go unchecked. Other findings include: 93% of WTNs had missing facility permits/exemptions; 83% of WTNs had missing carrier licences; 7% had a missing EWC code (a six-digit code used to identify waste as listed in the European Waste Catalogue); and 91% or above compliance rate was achieved by only 32% of projects analysed.

“When we started this analysis, we knew it was going to highlight some pretty shocking practices, but I wasn’t prepared for this level of non-compliance,” notes Harris. “Our report reveals significant gaps in records around the disposal of waste in construction, but also that firms are failing to engage with a circular economy, meaning up to 13% of construction materials go direct from production to landfill. As an industry, construction consumes more than 40% of the world’s raw resources and accounts for more than 40% of landfill waste. Without good data on what’s happening to all this waste, we don’t have a chance of reducing it or improving material reuse and recycling.”

Waste crime

The UK Construction Industry Waste Report 2023 highlights that these omissions leave an incomplete picture of how waste is handled, where it is sent to, and what type of waste it is. This lack of data makes it impossible to accurately quantify the cost involved and the physical waste produced in the process – and the resulting impact on the planet.

The report also uncovers the significant carbon footprint of waste management in construction. The average emissions associated with waste transport per project equates to over nine tonnes of CO2e, or more than 6,000 miles of travel. The current average carbon emissions associated with waste management during construction is 190 tonnes of CO2e per £1m of project spend.

The Environment Agency is increasing its efforts to manage waste crime, not least because of the risk of environmentally harmful waste disposal practices due to incomplete waste handling data. Failure to produce complete documentation can result in a fixed penalty notice of £300 or prosecution and even imprisonment. If all the non-compliant WTNs analysed in this report incurred a fixed penalty charge, the resulting fines would exceed £13m.

Qflow is using the report to call for industry-wide improvements in waste management to reduce environmental impact and increase efficiency.

Read The UK Construction Industry Waste Report 2023 at bit.ly/Qflow_report

Image credit | iStock

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