Waste management is a complex industry and there are plenty of people and companies who are willing to take advantage. Since most people don’t really want to think about what happens to their waste once it has left their sight, this industry has been left open to those who are willing to make a quick buck at any cost.

Unfortunately, we simply cannot think like this any more. The pressure we are putting on the environment with our current disposal methods is quite literally killing the planet. From the microplastics we are now all ingesting on a regular basis to the failure to reuse perfectly good materials, there is plenty of evidence that we need to find a new method.

This is where ethical waste management comes in.

Ethical Waste Management

Ethics are a set of moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity. In the context of waste management, there are 4 basic moral principles we should all consider.

  • Our responsibility to uphold high expectations of waste managers, carriers and disposers

  • Our duty to follow and uphold the law

  • Our duty to protect the environment to the best of our abilities

  • Our responsibility to leave a positive community legacy

Though these moral principles may appear to complicate waste management systems, the reality is that with some more innovative thinking, they actually make the waste management process much simpler. Ethical waste management is the challenge we are taking on at WasteSURE.

The Waste Duty of Care

The waste duty of care forms the legal basis for all waste managers. The duty of care embodies a series of legal requirements and obligations. The legal requirements of the duty of care set out what is expected of waste managers in order to ensure the safe handling, carrying and disposal of waste types. This extends to ensuring that all the correct permits and risk assessments are in place before deciding on an appropriate route for the waste.

The obligations of the waste duty of care are most often just good common sense. The main obligation is that all waste managers will find the most environmentally friendly route for their waste and will avoid landfill to the best of their ability. While this is not a legally binding part of the waste duty of care and there may be some variation in what is considered the most environmentally friendly method, all waste managers should, as a minimum, show that they are aware of this obligation.

At WasteSURE, the waste duty of care forms the foundation of everything we do. We ensure that all our client’s are acting in a legally responsible way. Our system means that we can only ever use permitted companies to carry and dispose of waste and all our clients will have access to all the documents they need to prove that the waste duty of care has been upheld.

Though the waste duty of care should be second nature to waste managers by now, it is clear that there are still some companies that use their own interpretation in order to charge their clients over the odds for their services. This is wrong. The waste duty of care was not designed to cost clients; in fact, following the waste duty of care properly should save companies money.

Finding the Right Waste Manager

In an industry that is all too tempting to those looking to make a fast buck, finding the right waste manager can be difficult. Furthermore, ensuring that the waste manager is upholding your ethical values when you aren’t even sure what they should be doing is a challenge most businesses don’t even acknowledge.

The first thing we would encourage businesses to do is to learn about the waste duty of care and what their obligations are. If you don’t know what you should expect from a waste manager, it is impossible to know what sort of standards you should be seeing from them. While you might strike lucky and find a company who knows their stuff and does a great job, to be comfortable, you should be able to confirm that.

There is plenty of information available to you on our blog. This is all completely free and we hope that you will find what you need to know here. We try to update and add to this blog regularly but if there is something that you need to know now and can’t see, please call our Waste Advice Line on 0333 301 0705. No question is a silly question!

Environmental Protection

Our relationship with the environment is under threat and while waste is not the only problem, it is does form a large portion of the issue. In 2016, the UK produced a total of 222.9 million tonnes of waste and, though recycling and other recovery made up 48.5% of the final waste treatment, 24.4%, or 52.3 million tonnes, still went to landfill.

Landfill is not a good solution for most waste types. Due to the compression of waste and the sealed containers used, the waste that goes into the land doesn’t decompose as you might expect compost to. The lack of oxygen means that the waste isn’t broken down by natural means. Landfill is the least sustainable option for waste.

On the other hand, some forms of waste – particularly hazardous wastes – can only be disposed of in secured landfill sites. Until a new solution is thought up for these wastes, hazardous landfill is the only option waste managers have to safely dispose of waste. It may be counter-intuitive, but landfill is actually the most environmentally friendly option for some types of hazardous waste.

It is the waste manager’s role to weigh up the pros and cons of particular waste disposal routes in terms of the potential effect on the environment. A good method for doing this is the waste hierarchy. This is a simple way of determining which options are available and prioritising waste disposal routes.

The waste hierarchy looks like this:

Using this hierarchy to decide on a route for waste should always lead to the most environmentally friendly method of disposal but it is not the end of the process just yet.

At WasteSURE, we put the environment at the centre of our solutions and come up with ways to limit our, and our clients’, impact where we can. This has lead us to come up with some more innovative ways of dealing with waste. For example, we always try to limit the number of movements waste has to make by using larger carriers where we can. This minimises the amount of fuel required to take the waste to its disposal location. In some cases, we have even applied for a permit to create a middle ground where we can store waste so that it can be collected by larger trucks.

Community Legacy

When we talk about waste, we often think about the materials being disposed of but how many companies also consider the impact on the local community? Big trucks moving large, heavy skips are liable to leave the occasional tyre track on beautiful manicured lawns but rather than simply shrug these off, we believe that companies should do their best to leave no trace. This is why we have replaced turf in several locations already!

All businesses should consider how they operate within a community. This is something that we take really seriously at WasteSURE through our corporate responsibility. As part of this responsibility, we are currently offering community groups around Greater Manchester free access to our Community Cleanup Pack which includes gloves, litter pickers, bags, a free skip and compliant disposal as a standard.

We are very conscious of the impact we can have on our local community, not just as waste managers but as a business too. WasteSURE is currently acting as a sponsor for local kids football team Jogabola. Though health and fitness might not appear to be within the remit of a waste management company, we believe that community legacy should be much broader with positive input in lots of different areas.

WasteSURE is also keen to get our network of suppliers involved with our corporate responsibility. We encourage everyone who joins our network to contribute towards our community legacy and bring new ideas to the table as well.

Ethical waste management may not be the current trend but if you look carefully, there are companies who will treat your waste properly. WasteSURE is proud to be leading the way towards better, more ethical, waste management systems and we hope that other companies will soon follow.

Hannah Field

Author Hannah Field

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