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What is a Site Waste Management Plan

Updated on April 10, 2019

Site Waste Management Plans Made Easy

What are SITE WASTE Management Plans (SWMPs)?

They are voluntary plans drawn up by construction site contractors to plan the implementation of good practice in site waste management, for each project.

Although now voluntary, they were originally required by law to be for all (UK - England) construction sites where the value of the construction work will exceed £300,000.

(Please note that the legal SWMP requirements for England, which were originally made a requirement in 2008, were repealed in 2013.)

Note: The repeal should not be seen as a failure. Quite the reverse. They were quickly taken on-board because they save contractors money. While also improving sustainability and being a form of recycling, they avoid the need for new materials. In particular implementing SWMPs reduces the need for quarrying large quantities of building materials.

Now, 90% of UK construction waste is recycled. That is a massive success story, and is a considerably higher recycling rate than achieved in most EU countries.

What is the Purpose of a SWMP?

The idea is that when a project is planned there shall be detailed thought given to applying the waste hierarchy:

  • Avoid waste - in building this could be achieved by carrying out a renovation rather than a complete demolition and rebuild.
  • Minimize waste - avoid creating the waste (such as crush and recycle concrete on site and use it as an aggregate in the concrete for the new building on the site). That way no waste is created, and the aim of minimizing waste is met.
  • Recycle - that is find another use for materials (for example collect materials such as glass and return them to a central processing point where the glass may be melted and used to make new bottles).


More About SITE WASTE Management Plans

Who will find SITE WASTE Management Plans (SWMPs) useful:-

  • anyone who is planning a construction project costing more than £300,000, and in many cases considerably less

  • any construction project clients or architects that:

  • produce, manage or dispose of waste

  • suppliers to the construction industry

  • environmental regulators, ie local authorities and the Environment Agency.

The aim is to:

  • maintain the construction industry's generally conscientious attitude to waste by raising the profile of waste planning
  • reduce the amount of waste produced on construction sites
  • prevent fly-tipping
  • improve environmental performance
  • meet regulatory controls
  • reduce the rising costs of managing waste.

Historic Note: The UK's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a consultation in April 2007. A summary of responses was published subsequently indicating support for the proposal of statutory SWMPs. Respondents favoured the suggestion that a threshold of £250,000 was too high, and that SWMPs would be of benefit in terms of improving resource efficiency.

What are the Levels of SWMP According to Project Size?

Standard SWMP - for projects costing between £300,000 and £500,000.

Detailed SWMP - for projects costing more than £500,000 and requiring more detailed reporting. If the project has a higher estimated value (over £500, 000), the SWMP must be further updated to include the identity of the waste required by section 34 of the EPA 1 990, Duty of Care.

A Construction Site Showing A Demolition Waste Crusher

A portable demolition waste crusher.
A portable demolition waste crusher. | Source

UK Legal Aspects - Duty of Care Explained

THE DUTY of Care is a law which requires every business in the UK to take "all reasonable steps" to keep their wastes safe. It was introduced through Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and covers any businesses that produce, import, carry, keep, treat, dispose or broker controlled waste.

The objective of the Duty of Care is to protect people and the environment from illegally managed waste. It does this through creating an "audit trail" of responsibility for the waste. The environment agencies and local authorities can follow the audit trail back through all parties that have been responsible for it. They may prosecute if any party has failed to observe its responsibilities for the waste.

The Duty of Care transfer note should include a description of all non-hazardous or hazardous properties associated with the waste. This is to ensure that subsequent waste treatment or disposal does not cause adverse chemical reactions.

The Duty of Care regulations are currently may have been being revised since the above was written.

A Highways Construction Waste Reduction Success

Resurfacing Technique Saves the Planet


Insitu recycling of a damaged road surface near Peterborough provided a perfect solution for the local environmentally friendly council.

This is part of a report published in the Highways magazine June 2008. I won't publish it all here for copyright reasons. (It may be available at

Cambridgeshire County Council is believed to be the country's leading county for recycling waste materials and recently demonstrated and reinforced its commitment to the policy. The county's highways service, in conjunction with its Term Maintenance Services partner Atkins, which forms Cambridgeshire Highways, has opted to recycle in-situ a 2km stretch of the B1040 road, which runs parallel to and directly alongside the River Nene at Ramsey St Mary's, about 20km south west of Peterborough. The road mainly takes agricultural vehicles and is the only means of access to several residential and agricultural properties.

Cambridgeshire Highways considered three reconstruction options for this particular site. These were traditional reconstruction, where the existing material is excavated and replaced by new, ex-situ or off site recycling, where the existing material is removed to a mobile mixing plant for blending prior to returning to site, and in-situ recycling, where the existing material is recycled in place.

In-situ recycling was used and the author states that it was found to be much faster, cheaper, much less disruptive to traffic and far more environmentally acceptable with a carbon footprint considerably less than off site recycling or normal reconstruction methods. Off site or ex-situ recycling and traditional reconstruction techniques require vastly more lorry movements to transport materials to and from the site. Also in-situ recycling, unlike conventional repairs, does not generally require the disposal of surplus material or the importation of large quantities of new materials.

9 Easy Steps to a Compliant SWMP

Recycling is popular on Construction Sites

Recycling is great, but re-use is better for the environment.
Recycling is great, but re-use is better for the environment.

Some People Think SWMPs are simply more RED TAPE and a Waste of Time. What Do You Think? Vote Here!

Are You in Favour of Site Waste Management Plans?

See results
Construction waste scrap iron, like these old steel pipes, is infinitely recyclable.
Construction waste scrap iron, like these old steel pipes, is infinitely recyclable.

Construction Waste Recycling - A Story of Progress Since SWMPs were Introduced in 2008

The UK Construction Industry uses a huge amount of raw materials.

Until SWMPs were introduced much of it was ending up as waste.

These plans are cited as being extremely beneficial in formalizing a comprehensive recycling and waste management strategy for each project.

With around 30% of the construction industry's output being for the public sector, Government quite rightly wants to set the example for other construction clients, particularly by procuring more sustainable public buildings.

The SWMP regulations did a great job in encouraging contractors to get into the habit of recycle suitable spoil, demolition materials, and surplus construction material arising from the works on site to avoid the need to transport materials to landfill. Plus, reducing the cost of building projects significantly.

The decision to scrap the regulations appears to have been made easier by the fact that responders to the DEFRA consultation said that they would continue to use SWMPs post deregulation in any event.

Skips remain the original and most versatile construction site waste disposal option, alongside on-site crushing machines which grade the crushed stone ready for re-use on-site.

Skips are most commonly used for segregation and removal of demolition and construction waste, the variety of sizes makes them versatile solutions for many different waste streams.

And, by using these methods over 90% of UK demolition waste will be recycled in 2019.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 stevelast

PLEASE do Comment Here - Yes! We really do want to know Your thoughts About This!!!

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    • profile image


      10 years ago

      will any one teach me or give tips for project management

    • profile image

      Bob in China 

      10 years ago

      I am currently working in China on a pretty big construction job and am trying to get the contractor to write a SWMP....lots of blank faces.....

    • profile image

      Ikhuenbor Vikram Osarumen 

      11 years ago

      I we all put our hands on deck then we can make the world a better place.

    • Kirsten Young profile image

      Kirsten Young 

      11 years ago

      We should all be doing our part to make the world a greener place! Great information, thanks for sharing.

    • WaterPurifierPro profile image


      12 years ago

      You know trash always seems to be an after thought in construction projects. Planning for it up front make all the sense in the world

    • GabrielleGuichard profile image


      12 years ago from Antofagasta (Chile)

      Though I think it's a shame that a government must edict laws for something that should be made almost by reflex, I have to admit it was a thing to do. Thank you for the info in the article, and for the useful links.

    • outofbreath profile image


      12 years ago from Kenya

      Very new information for me.. I never think about this.. but I thought it would be very useful..

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great stuff. Thanks for the useful info!

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      I see a lot of waste evertime I drive by any construction site. Everything is heaped up in a pile and you can see value in what the construction company may see as garbage.

    • VanBergen profile image


      13 years ago

      Great to see that construction contractors are concerned with being Green. Gotta save the planet.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      I agree with the first comment. You took what could be perceived as a boring topic, waste management, and made it interesting. Very informative and well put together. I hope more companies read this hub.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Hi I'm working as waste maneger on a building site.

    • profile image

      Site Waste Planning Ltd 

      13 years ago

      A good overview of the legislation, or for something quite a few companies seem to know little about!

    • stevelast profile imageAUTHOR


      13 years ago

      Sakora: Here is another good one for saving waste and which could be used in SWMPs. See it in the June 2008Highways magazine, page 34. "Resurfacing Technique Saves the Planet". Here is the extract from the article which refers:-

      Cambridgeshire Highways negotiated with the specialist road recycling and stabilisation contractor Stabilised Pavements Ltd to use the in-situ recycling process, which will provide a 20 year design life of 5M standard axles for the 12,000m2 section of rejuvenated road. SPL, based in Lutterworth, Leicestershire is believed to be the only company in the UK currently promoting the in-situ recycling process using its German Wirtgen WR2500 Recycler to spearhead the technique.

      The company also specialises in haunch recycling, retread and soil stabilisation. "The Wirtgen WR2500 can pulverise to full depth while simultaneously delivering accurately metered quantities of water, bitumen emulsion or foamed bitumen into the mixture to strengthen and rejuvenate damage pavements in compliance with clients' specifications," says SPL director Gerry Howe.

      “In-situ recycling, unlike conventional repairs, does not generally require the disposal of surplus material or the importation of large quantities of new materials. The in-situ deep and cold recycling process involves pulverising damaged or failed road pavements to, depths of up to 320mm with a special rotovating machine and mixing in specific quantities of either lime, cement, pulverised fuel ash, bitumen emulsion or foamed bitumen. The revitalised mixture is then rolled, reprofiled, re-rolled and overlaid with an appropriate final surfacing for a fast return to traffic.

      I hope that helps?

    • stevelast profile imageAUTHOR


      13 years ago

      Sakora: There are a lot of ways and the best in my view come from thinking innovatiely about each project. On a recent job we were going to knock down a glass coated steel tank and start completely new which would have involved breaking out the old tank base slab, and building a new bund for our new smaller storage tank. We have actually decided to re-use the existing base slab and stand new HDPE Plastic tanks on the old slab. We found the lower ring of steel panels was OK to use as the tank bund. We have saved money from re-using the slab and part of the old tank, and lower steel panels, and reduced the programme period for building it as well. It must be hard to think of these things when in college when there are no real examples on a real job, but I suggest you think about things like that.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      as a polytechnic grad. in building technology, waste control has been a major issue i'm trying to come to terms with. i strongly agree with you that, if waste is properly managed, it will increase profit and enhance the industry in general. my problem is, apart from the 3Rs in waste management, which other ways can waste be reduced in construction?

    • prophet25 profile image


      13 years ago

      This is so true, I do not think it is a good idea that so much material is wasted on building sites. Contractors can do many things to make their act tidier and minimise the waste they produce, and this also save some cost for them...

    • Stayathomejobs profile image


      13 years ago from NC

      Great hub! It is laid out very nicely indicating a lot of thought was put forth.

    • globalresortsnet profile image


      13 years ago

      Great hub and very valuable information. This topic actually stands out among most of the hubs due to its variety. Keep up the good work.

    • kalta1 profile image


      13 years ago from Scottsdale, Arizona

      Going green is so in right now. I just hope we are not to late. This comapny is doing something about it and I respect that!

    • gardenresources profile image


      13 years ago

      You bring up some topics here that I had never really thought of. Thanks for getting my brain to come out of retirement and consider waste management

    • workfromhomenz profile image


      13 years ago from New Zealand

      Excellent information, Steve. I wish you best of fortune on this endeavour.

    • tschier profile image


      13 years ago from Stuart

      What a great Idea. As a family that recycles as much of out waste as we can I am gratfull to see this being inacted in the UK. Hope it catches on and is mandatory in all countries. If we are to sustain this planet for other generations we need to go green where ever we can. After all it's our home were protecting.

    • First_home_buyer profile image


      13 years ago

      As prices for all materials continue to rise, following this advice will become more and more important. I like the fact that you suggest site waste management plans being very green and that construction contractors must reduce their waste. It is appalling how much material is wasted on building sites. There is so much contractors can do to make their act tidier and minimise the waste they produce, and while doing that they will actually save themselves money!

    • stevelast profile imageAUTHOR


      13 years ago

      Hi! Sakora - Here are some ideas for renovations of old buidlings:

      If the building has nice old bricks call a specialist merchant who supplies secondhand materials for restoring heritage buildings. Even if he won't pay for the bricks you deliver to him, you will still have saved the landfill fee.

      If the building has plasterboard walls and these being replaced. Keep the plasterboard separate and send it back to the manufacturer where the gypsum the boards are made from can be recycled.

      If some of the old paving stones are broken, keep them and when you have enough of different colours and types, break them up some more and use the slabs as "carzy paving".

      As soon as you get thinking you realise that there are loads of things that can be done to save sending construction waste to landfill.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      saving the planet earth should be a matter of great concern to all. i am currently writing a project on altanatives of reducing construction site waste, any help? below is my e-mail address

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      saving the planet earth should be a matter of great concern to all. i am currently writing a project on altanatives of reducing construction site waste, any help? below is my e-mail address

    • GreatGoji profile image


      13 years ago

      Most Contractors tend to be wasteful... shameful really!.. They should rethink what they do and care more then maybe they too could save alot including money! Nyahah!

    • crazycat profile image


      13 years ago from Philippines

      Hope going green or suporting sustainability will not only be a fad but will continue to be practiced because this is what we and the world needs. We now see the effect of global warming and we should do something about it.

    • nkthen profile image


      13 years ago

      Well written... Now let me check your website for more information...

    • BanjDog profile image


      13 years ago from Travel Around

      It has always amazed me at the amount of waste on a building site - it is a disgrace!

      Hopefully these SWMP's will improve this and that contractors will realize that not only can they help the environment but they can save themselves money as well.

    • yojpotter profile image


      13 years ago from Iloilo City

      It's good to see this topic was brought up..I think we all need to do our share in protecting our planet...thumbs up to all the construction company who are following these examples! ^^

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      I'm based in UK and I know how important this has become.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Good lens. Must not shoot the messanger I suppose, but this all looks to me like a lot of requirements to learn, and a lot work for most hard pressed contractors to complete.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      good solid piece of information on a "dirty" subject... sorry i could not resist the bad humour.

    • PotatoHeadHarvey profile image


      13 years ago from Spokane

      I was curious about what goes on with these big construction site projects and what type of requirements were in place to protect the environment. Wonder if China has anything like this in place???

      Thank you! This was informative and helpful. Go Green!

    • Niche Markets profile image

      Niche Markets 

      13 years ago

      Great topic, it's always best to be proactive instead of trying to clean up the mess (literally) later. I worked on a waste management plan for a chain of discount stores and we were able to reduce waste -and costs of waste removal - by 40%. Who knew garbage could be so interesting!

    • profile image

      getaway 365 

      13 years ago

      Found this by accident. Interesting article though

    • mastercleanse profile image


      13 years ago

      great site. most people don't take this seriously enough.

    • homesecurity profile image


      13 years ago

      Well you managed to make a strange subject interesting, great information.


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