What Is a Waste Management Policy and Do I Need One?

Today’s waste management policies help secure efficiency, reduce costs associated with waste and lower the amount of waste going to landfill overall. They should be developed in line with waste regulations and in consideration of the UK Government’s ‘Circular Economy Package’, which stipulates that 65% of municipal waste should be recycled by 2035. 

Based on government data, 64.4% of all waste is produced by SMEs, far exceeding waste generated by households. Find out everything you need to know about waste management policies and why you need one in this blog.

Why Should SMEs Implement a Waste Management Policy?

Businesses of all sizes must remain compliant with the UK Waste Duty of Care, issued under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act. This means SMEs must handle any waste they generate safely and compliantly, in line with what the Duty of Care states. 

SMEs are required to have their waste collected by a public or private contractor. These services vary across the UK, with 68% of collection or unitary authorities providing waste collection and 49% offering recycling capabilities. From an SME perspective, it’s worth finding a provider who can effectively recycle the majority of waste produced. 

The consequences of non-compliance with the Waste Duty of Care can be severe: 

Failure to comply with the duty of care is an offence with no upper limit on the courts’ power to fine. In some instances, a fixed penalty notice may be issued for failure to comply with the duty of care in place of prosecution. The Code is admissible as evidence in legal proceedings for Section 34(1) offences and its rules must be taken into account where relevant to questions raised in the case.

Most SMEs will be classed as ‘waste producers’, which necessitates developing a waste management policy, as “Waste producers play a key role under the duty of care requirements as they are in the best position to identify the nature and characteristics of the waste.” Waste management policies show the entire company what types of waste are being produced and how to deal with them compliantly.

So what should you include in a waste management policy? 

Frameworks for a Waste Management Policy

The best kind of waste management policy must be detailed, covering many circumstances, waste types and the processes for dealing with waste. A waste management policy must contain the following:

  • A statement of intent: A statement affirming the commitment to safe and compliant waste disposal in line with the UK’s move to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. 
  • A waste management strategy: A short summation of objectives your waste management is working towards. For example, this could include a goal of reducing the waste sent to landfill by 30% by 2025 or a purchasing policy stipulating only materials that produce the least environmental harm will be purchased. 
  • Acknowledgement of the applicable waste management legislation.
  • How waste management will be implemented.

Waste Management Legislation

There’s a variety of legislation you should acknowledge and consider in your waste management policy, such as:

The Landfill Directive is particularly interesting as it relates to sorting and changing the characteristics of the waste, such as reducing its volume, which can be achieved through balers or compactors. SMEs benefit a lot from these machines, usually utilising vertical balers or portable compactors due to their smaller size, cost-effectiveness and ease of use. 

When considering legislation, a good rule of thumb is to explore the waste stipulations set out by the Environment Agency, which you can find here

The Roles and Responsibilities of SME Waste Management

Waste management policies don’t give direct instruction to specific employees, but they do set direct guidance for the business as a whole. As part of a good policy, employees have an expectance placed on them to be accountable and stick to this guidance, which includes a number of rules and responsibilities.

Rules and responsibilities revolve around implementation. It’s quite simple to base your practices around the three Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle, using the waste hierarchy to further inform your decisions. Most materials can be recycled, even materials such as polystyrene.

The responsibilities required can also include general safety precautions. For example, any created bales must be properly tied and stored in a safe, predetermined place before collection to reduce the risk of trips and falls. 

All sites need to designate areas in which waste management occurs, such as the spaces waste management machinery inhabits and the spaces in which collections are made. 

One of the most common challenges for SME business owners and facilities managers is stakeholders may not understand a waste management policy or even realise there's one in place. Therefore, the most important practices when it comes to proper waste management is education and positive reinforcement, which both need strong direction from management.

When you’ve created your waste management policy, remember to accurately and effectively educate your colleagues on the rules and requirements it demands. This helps promote buy-in within the whole organisation.

How to Improve Your Waste Management Strategy

Do you have a waste management strategy and machinery implemented on your site but are still finding inefficiencies or paying too much for waste disposal? This is a common problem - having the tools to help but not knowing exactly how to use them properly. Our guide can help.

Inside, you’ll find innovative approaches to sustainable waste management, waste audit tips, layout templates and insights you can use to get the most out of your waste management strategy.

Click the banner below to download your free copy and take one step towards a more sustainable waste management strategy.

Waste Management Strategy Guide