Construction Annual Waste Report shows rampant non-compliance

Analysing 90,000 data points, the document lays bare the shocking prevalence of missing information and regulatory inaction in the UK building sector. 

black and grey metal crane photography

The first-of-its kind report looked at almost 100,000 Waste Transfer Notes (WTNs) issued between June 2018 and April 2023. Required to be completed by law, assessment of these compliance documents revealed one-on-three had unchecked fields giving an inaccurate picture of a development’s true environmental impact.

You can read the full document and analysis here

Missing information primarily fell into three categories – facility permits and exemptions, carrier licenses, and EWC code. The latter relates to tracking waste via the European Waste Catalogue, a function that is becoming increasingly important with the introduction of a new EU Sustainability Directive and policy on deforestation. Both amount to organisations having to prove actions do not have a negative climate impact anywhere in the world in order to trade with Europe’s single market. 

Based on current fines for submission of a non-compliant WTNs in the UK, if just 1% of those identified in the study resulted in penalties charges would exceed £15million. Scaling this up across the entire UK construction sector, that figure could be up to £1billion. A key concern is this potentially reflects a lack of awareness, or acceptance, at the huge role construction plays in climate destruction, and the urgency of tackling industry contributions. A process that must begin with accurate measurement, transparency and culpability. 

In terms of waste management alone, the building sector averages are 190tonnes of CO2e per £1million of project spend, with 6,000 miles of travel associated with removal of old or used materials and other forms of site refuse. Meanwhile, the construction industry as a whole consumes around 40% of raw resources available at any one time, and contributes 40% of what goes into landfill.

‘Without good data on what’s happening to all this waste, we don’t have a chance of reducing it or improving material reuse and recycling,’ said Brittainy Harris, Co-Founder of climate-driven construction firm Qflow, which led on the report. ‘We hope that with the insights shared today, and by helping the industry get better data far more easily, we can work together with the regulators, industry bodies, developers and contractors to really transform construction from a linear and wasteful industry to one that is circular and low carbon.’

More on construction and the environment: 

Local governments speak out about National Grid clean energy delays

WATCH: The urgent need for construction machinery electrification

Can ResponsibleSteel clean up the construction industry?

Urban planning can mean climate action

Image: Verstappen Photography


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