What’s in Your Waste and Why Does it Matter?

Posted by Helen McDonnell on 04-Sep-2015 14:38:00
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As the global population increases, so too does the level of waste material being produced. The World Bank estimates that within the next 85 years, humans will generate three times as much waste as we do today.

The latest Government figures show that the UK produced around 48 million tonnes of industrial and commercial waste in 2012, the last year that data was available.

Much of this material comes from construction sites, chemical plants or factories and is at risk of containing toxins and contaminants that can cause harm to people or the environment.

For that reason, identifying eco-hazards and disposing of waste appropriately is vital to protect our environment and ensure health and safety.

To help with this, the UK’s existing waste management guidance (WM2) was updated by the Environment Agency in June this year. The WM3 Waste Classification & Assessment – Technical Guidance outlines a system, created for those who manage and regulate waste, to assess the potential for hazards within the waste and to ensure it is handled with the appropriate duty of care.

As with WM2, WM3 references the European Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP). However, chemicals and wastes are now to be assessed against a different set of criteria. These are known as hazard statement codes, rather than the risk phrases of the previous guidelines. In addition to guidance on CLP, WM3 also contains an updated List of Waste (LoW), a legal classification system for those who need to identify different types of waste and their potential hazards.

Although many of the guidelines in WM3 remain unchanged, there are some modifications that it is important to be aware of, particularly in regards to flammability testing and the process for monitoring levels of dioxins and furans, or other persistent organic pollutants.


As part of their ‘duty of care’, all businesses in the UK are required by law to deal appropriately with any waste they produce. Any chemical constituents must be suitably classified following the guidelines in WM3. Once complete, a waste code will be assigned from the LoW. All documents and records should then be filled out accordingly before it is moved, disposed of or recovered.

The main issue at hand is that in order to classify waste, any hazardous properties must be clearly identified beforehand. With this in mind, there should always be a consultancy stage when dealing with waste of unknown origin or constituents.

To help businesses save time and money, at ESG, we offer advice, expertise and guidance on all current waste management standards. The assessment tool we use helps with the quick and accurate identification of any hazards in waste material and classify them in line with WM3 guidance.

It’s not only important that businesses know whether their waste is hazardous or non-hazardous, but exactly what kind of danger it presents. Once this has been established the material can then be disposed of, or recovered in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

At the time of writing, major infrastructure and housing plans are in play, as is the Government’s pledge to develop 200,000 homes across Britain’s brownfield sites. Because of this, it’s clear that there will be a vast amount of construction soil being generated at risk of containing hazardous materials, such as asbestos or industrial chemicals.

To help clients facing this, we also offer chemical fingerprint testing services for those who wish to identify specific hazards in construction waste.

As WM3 replaces WM2, a growing population and ambitious government plans mean it’s increasingly important to ensure our waste is managed efficiently and appropriately.

If you have any questions about how to manage waste generated by your business or would like to find out more about the WM3 guidance, please get in touch by emailing

Topics: WM3, Asbestos, Brownfield Site, Energy & Waste Services, Waste