Getting to grips with waste management and recycling

waste3651It’s inevitable that every business creates waste, but it’s what you do with it that has become such a prevalent issue these days. With more pressure being placed on businesses to meet environmental targets than ever before, we need to get to grips with the minefield that is waste management.

Obtaining a good waste management strategy is paramount, as it ensures the safety of your employees when working with dangerous substances and also to anyone who may come into contact with the waste. Disposing of your waste in the correct way can also help your business to save money, as it is far more expensive to incinerate all of your waste when it could have easily been separated and recycled.

According to government regulations, you must classify all of your waste before you can dispose of it or recycle it. This seems simple enough, but as there are five different categories of waste, all including their own subcategory, it is easy to see how some companies struggle to get rid of it in the appropriate manner.

Get your classification right

It may seem pedantic, but classifying your waste correctly the first time will help you in the long run, enabling you to avoid making any costly mistakes. Classifying will also provide you with more details, so that you are able to fill in the appropriate paperwork that needs to be given to waste contractors as part of your duty of care, which they will then use to correctly dispose of your waste.

Your waste will fall into one of these five categories: construction and demolition waste, packaging waste and recyclables, electronic and electrical equipment, vehicle and oily wastes, and healthcare and related wastes. Within these categories, you also must decide whether the waste is hazardous or non-hazardous.

Successful waste classification should help you decide how to handle the waste, as different types require specific treatment. This step is especially important if you are working with hazardous waste, as it is illegal to mix hazardous waste with non-hazardous rubbish, and you can even receive a fine should you be caught doing this.

Treating hazardous waste separately

If you are working with hazardous substances, it will probably be quite apparent to you, as it mainly constitutes chemical and toxic substances.

Nonetheless, you will also be able to identify a hazardous substance by checking the waste code, as there will be an asterisk sign next to the code if it is hazardous. Check the container of the substance too, as it will have red or white pictograms to indicate danger, or orange and black signs. However, sometimes cosmetic and medicinal substances do not always print this on the label, so ensure to check the safety sheet accompanying it before classifying it as non-hazardous. It’s easy to get caught out.

You must also never mix waste substances that have different chemical reactions, for instance an acid and an alkali would react, so they would need to be in different categories even if they have the same List of Waste code.

Is your waste offensive?

As you can imagine, the healthcare industry creates a huge amount of hazardous waste every day. Laboratory chemicals, infected waste, sharps and needles, bagged clinical waste, anatomical waste, and cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines should all be classed as hazardous waste.

Additionally, the healthcare industry also creates a great deal of waste that, although is non-hazardous and nontoxic, will be unpleasant for anyone who comes into contact with it. This is known as offensive waste and must be disposed of separately. Examples of offensive waste include used dressings and bandages, hygiene waste and sanitation products, including nappies and sterilised laboratory waste.

Collection and disposal

You may have thought that the categorisation was the challenging part, but it’s the disposal process itself that can take up the most time and effort.

Once you’ve classified your waste and filled out the appropriate paperwork, you have to send it to the correct facility to be disposed of or recycled. Recycling for reuse is the preferred option for many materials, to reduce carbon emissions, however this is obviously not possible for all types of waste. If your waste does need to be disposed of, then it either needs to be incinerated or sent to landfill. Don’t be fooled into thinking once you’ve classified your waste it isn’t your problem anymore, if it is found to be classified as the wrong type it can be returned to you to reclassify, which can often be costly and time consuming.

You can arrange for a specialist waste management service to collect your waste from your premises and dispose of it in the correct way for you, making the process much easier. The service should provide you with the correct waste paperwork to ensure that you are legally compliant and they will dispose of it in the regulated process. Instructing a specialist third party organisation to do this on your behalf has many benefits, as not only will you free up valuable resources to focus on other important aspects of your business, you can also rest easy, safe in the knowledge that you won’t receive a hefty fine for breaching the UK’s waste management laws.

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