Industrial and Commercial Waste Management
The whole process of industrial and commercial waste management is highly complex and often depends on the individual requirements of each sector. For instance, an energy production plant such as a nuclear power station will not only have concerns about general waste management but the more specialised disposal of radioactive waste. A computer manufacturer will be concerned more about preventing hazardous waste by choosing less damaging components while the agricultural industry may well be focused more on using farm waste to produce useful fertilizer and power through anaerobic digestion processes.
While all industrial and commercial sectors have slightly different approaches to waste management, the key components of the waste hierarchy, as set out by the EU Waste Framework Directive and UK industrial and commercial waste legislation, apply across the board. Keeping to the hierarchy ensures that a business makes every effort to dispose of their waste safely.
The Waste Hierarchy
The most important part of the management of waste, whether it’s industrial and commercial or general waste, is the 5 stage hierarchy:
- Prevention: The key for industrial and commercial sectors is to ensure that they prevent the production of waste as much as possible in the first place. This will mean different things for different industries. For instance, changing office processes can greatly reduce problems such as waste paper while in industry making sure that waste disposal is used for heat and electricity generation is often the most sustainable approach. Another option for businesses is to introduce new technology to reduce waste such as greenhouse gas emissions.
- Preparing for Re-use: There are plenty of ways for businesses and industries to prepare their unwanted waste for reuse. This could be something as simple as using both sides of copying paper or cleaning and repairing old equipment for reuse either within the company. In bigger industries it could mean using quarry waste for road building rather than sending to landfill as was previously the case.
- Recycling: Most businesses and industries nowadays separate out their waste to be recycled. This can include paper, card, plastic and metal, all of which can be repurposed in some way. Paper for example can be pulped and made into recycled paper. Glass can be melted down to make new bottles and containers.
- Other Recovery: Where recycling is not possible, other methods such as heat and energy recovery can be used. This is particularly used in industries such as agriculture where large amounts of farm waste can be used in anaerobic digestion to provide fertilizer and heat or electricity. Many councils nowadays use this as the last stage of waste disposal and more and more cities and towns are beginning to see incineration plants that also provide valuable energy to the surrounding population.
- Disposal: The final stage of the hierarchy is disposal to landfill or straight incineration. The EU Landfill Directive has a specific aim of trying to reduce the amount we send to these places. For highly hazardous materials, specialist landfill sites are needed and disposal services must be specially licensed to use them.
The Benefits of Applying the Waste Hierarchy
- It meets regulatory expectations.
- Reduces the environmental impact of your company.
- It helps minimise the consumption of raw materials.
- It can save your business money by using resources more efficiently.
- Enables a business to identify waste problems early and handle them effectively.
Industrial and Commercial Waste Management Basics
There are number of processes that businesses both small and large have to put in place in order to handle their waste. According to Government guidelines you must:
- Keep waste minimised by using the waste hierarchy to prevent, reuse and recycle.
- Sort waste properly and store it in a secure and safe manner.
- Make sure you complete a waste transfer note for each load that leaves your business property.
- Only use a waste carrier who is registered and licensed to carry that particular type of waste.
Storing waste is an important part of management and the law requires businesses to do this in a secure space and provide the appropriate containers that are clearly designated with signage. There should be covers to stop waste blowing away and every step should be taken to prevent cross contamination. If you are producing hazardous waste, then there are extra requirements that you will have to adhere to such as arranging for specialist collection and disposal.
Waste transfer notes are basically invoices that show a load has been picked up from your premises and disposed of correctly. Businesses need to keep these for a period of 2 years minimum and produce them if asked by organisations such as the Environment Agency. Failure to do so or maintain a clear audit trail of waste can lead to prosecution and large fines.
Find out more about industrial and commercial waste legislation.