You: I’m about to start a development project that will transform a brownfield site into six luxury apartments. I’ve heard that work cannot begin before a site waste management plan is in place. What is an SWMP and why do I need one?

Me: Good question. Like its name suggests, an SWMP is a document that describes in detail the amount and type of waste a construction project will produce and how it will be reused, recycled or disposed of.  

A basic SWMP is suitable for all projects that cost between £300,000 and £500,000. The project costs include the value of plant, labour, materials, overheads and profit but exclude the value of land and VAT. 

You: I think I will need a detailed SWMP. What information should this contain?

Me: The Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008 state that SWMPs must identify the client, the principal contractor and the person who drafted it.  

It must describe the construction work proposed, including the location of the site and the estimated cost of the project.  

It must also record any decision taken before the SWMP was drafted on the nature of the project, its design, construction method or materials employed in order to minimise the quantity of waste produced on site.

A good SWMP must give full details of each waste type expected to be produced in the course of the project, estimate the quantity of each different waste type expected to be produced, and identify the waste management action proposed for each different waste type, including reusing, recycling, recovery and disposal.  

Not only that, it must contain a declaration that the client and the principal contractor will take all reasonable steps to ensure that all waste from the site is dealt with in accordance with the Waste Duty of Care legislation and that materials will be handled efficiently and waste managed appropriately.  

You: Is that it?

Me: No, the SWMP is a living document and must be updated regularly to reflect the project’s progress.

The principal contractor must ensure that every contractor knows where the SWMP is kept, and must make it available to any contractor carrying out work described in the plan.

You: I’ll enjoy putting the SWMP in the final skip load.  

Me: I wouldn’t do that. Within three months of the construction work being completed, the principal contractor must update the plan with the following information…

  • Confirmation that the SWMP was monitored on a regular basis to ensure that work progressed according to the plan and that the plan was updated. 
  • A comparison of the estimated quantities of each waste type against the actual quantities of each waste type
  • An explanation of any deviation from the plan
  • An estimate of the cost savings that have been achieved by completing and implementing the plan.  

You: But site clearance is about to start next week. Can it go ahead without an SMWP?

Me: It’s an SWMP.

You: That’s what I meant.

Me: Hmmm. An SWMP should be in place before any construction activity begins, although you are advised to prepare one immediately if you have started work without one.

You: And what if I don’t produce an SWMP?

Me: The SWMP Regulations 2008 can be enforced by the Environment Agency and any local government authority, including district and county councils.

Prosecutions can result in £50,000 fines or on-the-spot penalties. What’s more, both companies and individuals can be held liable. 

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