If the government goes ahead with scrapping Site Waste Management Plans it is far from being the ‘greenest ever’

Louise Clark

Nick Clegg stated at the recent Liberal Democrat conference that the party will keep this government the “Greenest Government” but if there is any chance of them retainaing this then they must reconsider their plans to repeal Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs).  As part of the Red Tape Challenge the government is set to repeal SWMPs on 1 December. This will provide further evidence that they are not the greenest government ever.

SWMPs were introduced in 2004 and made mandatory in 2008 for all construction projects larger than £300,000 in England. They were introduced to encourage the effective management of materials to ensure that they are considered at all stages of a construction project. In June, Defra opened a consultation on the proposition to repeal the legal requirements for construction sites to have SWMPs. During the consultation there were mixed views on their removal but there was no clear indication from that it was absolutely necessary to change the legislation (49% agreed with the repeal and 49% disagreed). However, the conclusion of the consultation was that the legislation was ‘not fit for purpose’.

Since the introduction of the SWMP and WRAP’s campaign of halving waste to landfill, great steps have been made to raise awareness and reduce waste

The UK construction and demolition sector is responsible for producing around one third of all waste in the UK which is a considerable contribution. Since the introduction of the SWMP and WRAP’s campaign of halving waste to landfill, great steps have been made to raise awareness and reduce waste. Through this awareness it has also allowed other sustainability issues to be discussed as waste is often seen as the first stepping stone for sustainability. 

Although the consultation report says that companies have the right procedures in place so will carry on voluntary with reducing waste, I am not sure this will be the case for all construction projects. The big projects and companies are likely to continue as they will not want to lose their reputation as sustainability leaders. It is the smaller companies and projects where I would image there will be the greatest effect. Legal requirements, though seen as a burden, can enable change. This is evident whenever we discuss with industry what will encourage other sustainability measures such as biodiversity enhancements, climate change adaptation measures, water saving measures and so on.

The answer always comes back that legislation is the best way of achieving such requirements. 

SWMPs and WRAP’s halving waste to landfill campaign (which ended in 2012) were both vital in reducing construction waste. We have two months to convince the government that SWMPs are a useful tool that should continue to be a legal requirement. 

Louise Clarke chairs the 2025 Group and sits on the Construction Industry Leadership Council