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Global Recycling Day: A Guide to Scottish Waste Classifications

Mar 15, 2022 | Recycled Products, Waste Management

March the 18th marks Global Recycling Day and you might be thinking that it’s counterintuitive to be talking about waste but waste streams are the raw materials of recycled products. We all have a duty of care to manage our waste responsibly in order to protect the environment. Understanding our waste better – how to separate it and where to send it – will create hundreds of thousands of tonnes more recycled products each year. This blog will demystify what waste classifications are, why we need them and how to use them to appropriately dispose of your waste. 

What classifies as waste

According to the Waste Framework Directive “Any substance or object… that the holder discards or intends to or is required to discard.” is classified as waste. However, there are some exemptions for greenfield soils for example the reuse of greenfield soils in construction so long as they comply with the regulatory guidance

Waste can be considered a product once it has been through a complete recovery, treatment operation, process or has been put to final use and has passed the relevant quality protocols. For example, Construction, Demolition and Excavation (CDE) waste that is brought to the Brewster Bros recycling facility is only deemed a product once it has complied with the WRAP Quality Protocol – end of waste guidance for the production of recycled aggregates from inert waste. SEPA offers further similar guidance for Recycled Aggregates from Inert Waste.

Why is Classification Important

It would not be possible to recycle without waste classifications. It is a way to identify the contents of the waste which then allows it to be processed appropriately to create the right recycled products. It also means that hazardous materials can be dealt with in a controlled environment where they will not pose a risk to people or the environment. 

Each year tonnes of contaminated waste is sent to recycling centres where it continues to contaminate the waste materials destined for recycling. This causes a staggering half a million tonnes of recycling to be sent to landfill each year (Circular Online, 2021).

What is a WM3

WM3 is the technical guidance outlining how to assess and classify waste. It acts as a guide for anyone producing, transporting, storing or managing waste. It requires interpretation and an understanding of how certain chemicals and contaminants can have a nasty effect when they cumulate. This process will identify if the waste is hazardous or non-hazardous. 

What do the Waste Classification Codes Mean

Once a WM3 is complete, you will have a 6 digit European Waste Classification (EWC) code. This code is generated based on what the waste comprises and how it was created, it will also identify if the waste is hazardous or non-hazardous.

The 6 digit code represents the chapter, subchapter and waste type. For example, 17:04:05 is covered in the chapter of the EWC under ‘Waste from a Demolition Site’, in the subchapter ‘Soil & Stones’, under the waste type ‘Non-Hazardous Soil & Stones’.

What is a WAC

Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC), applies to soil destined for landfill. It is used to assess materials to see if they will be accepted at a particular type of landfill. A WM3 will need to be completed prior to a WAC assessment to ensure you have all the information required to dispose of your waste correctly.  

The WAC assessment is completed in two parts: a solid analysis and a leachate analysis. The solid analysis identifies how organic the materials are and will look for some key contaminants. The Leachate analysis is used to understand what level of contaminants may leach out of the waste once it’s in the landfill. It is not used for waste classification and will not be able to tell you if the materials are hazardous or not. 

WAC assessment is required for waste being disposed of to the following types of landfill: inert, hazardous, stable non-reactive, stable non-reactive within a non-hazardous landfill. WAC assessment is not required for waste destined for a non-hazardous landfill.

What Can You do With Waste

Waste can be recycled into a huge variety of useful products and materials ready to be circulated back into the economy.

CDE waste uses

To conclude, you will need a WM3 for your waste to recycle it. If your soil waste is unable to be recycled (very unlikely) then you may need a WAC assessment before it will be accepted at the landfill. We specialise in recycling construction, demolition and excavation waste predominantly made up of soil, stones, rubble and bricks. Brewster Bros have undergone training on waste classifications with Albion Environmental to ensure we are always up to date with the latest changes in regulations. If you have any more questions about the type of waste accepted at our recycling site, please see our FAQs page or get in touch with us: [email protected] or call 01506 431 321.