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No to repealing site waste management plans

The CIOB argues that site waste management plans have been successful so far and should not be repealed.

The Chartered Institute of Building believes that SWMP regulations should not be repealed – they have and will continue to drive waste out of the construction industry.

In fact, a look at the most recent report from the Strategic Forum for Construction offers a snapshot of the industry’s progress on waste efficiencies made to date.

SWMPs have a continuing role to play

The industry has cut the total amount of waste it produces by a third, and it is arguable whether this improvement would have been delivered without having legislation in place.

While the amount of construction and demolition waste has decreased significantly, excavation waste sent to landfill has actually increased by 2.6m tonnes to 12.3m tonnes – an increase of 27 per cent.

This brings home the importance of SWMPs, as they clearly have a continuing role to play in the effective management of waste.

It’s about cost as well as waste

And it’s not just waste efficiency; it’s also cost efficiency. A 2009 study from WRAP showed that 76 per cent of construction businesses believed the introduction of SWMP regulations either saved them money or was cost-neutral.

“Without SWMPs, any training runs the risk of being unstructured and ineffectual”

With the UK’s construction output at its lowest level since 1998, the government should be encouraging businesses to realise the financial benefits of resource efficiency and waste prevention.

Defra’s assumption is that once the regulations are repealed, the industry will instead invest in additional waste management training for staff, which is debatable given that there will be no obligation to do so and that training is rarely a consequence of reducing regulation.

Importantly, without SWMPs in place to measure and understand waste production (type, quantities and sourcing) and identify where efficiencies can be made, any training runs the risk of being unstructured and ineffectual.

Waste plan legacy will continue

Whatever does happen to the regulations, we will see leading contractors and clients continue to use SWMPs in some form in order to maximise material resource efficiency and generate cost savings.

In addition, effective construction waste management is a core consideration for corporate social responsibility, which means waste will continue to be placed high on the reporting agenda.

But it is important to note that more than 90 per cent of the construction industry is made up of SMEs, some of which may see the repeal of SWMP regulations and actually end up ineffectively managing their waste, thus increasing their costs – particularly with landfill tax set to reach £80/tonne from next year.

The CIOB believes that removing SWMP regulations sends the wrong signal to the industry and represents a retrograde step. Smart regulation, and not a complete lack of it, will drive the industry to innovate and embed best practice processes.

Stephen Wielebski is a CIOB ambassador, chartered environmentalist and divisional development director at Miller Homes

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