Home 5 Sustainability 5 An Introduction to Waste: It’s Not Waste Until it’s Wasted

An Introduction to Waste: It’s Not Waste Until it’s Wasted

Sep 4, 2023 | Sustainability, Waste Management

Monday the 4th of September is the beginning of Zero Waste Week, and to mark the occasion, we’ve created a Waste Series breaking down all you need to know about waste and waste regulations in the UK construction industry.  

The world is running out of natural resources, and everyone has a part to play in preserving what is left. Dealing with your waste responsibly is the first step. In this blog we will highlight exactly what waste is, when it stops being waste, and the ‘Duty of Care’ that outlines everyone’s responsibilities for dealing with waste safely and sustainably. 



What is waste? 

The EU Waste Framework Directive defines waste as any substance or object which the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard.  

Although a waste may be sold or traded, or is capable of being recovered, this does not necessarily mean that it has ceased to be waste. Only once a final recovery operation has been completed – for example by being incorporated into a final product or being used in the place of a non-waste material – does waste cease to be waste.

Managing waste efficiently is crucial to the transition to a circular economy. Understanding what waste is and appreciating that it can be processed into valuable resources allows us to fuel this transition. 

For a deeper dive on what is classified as waste, check out SEPA’s guidance on “is it waste”.



When does waste stop being waste? 

For waste to no longer be considered waste, something needs to be done to it. This can range from a simple visual check to extensive processing (UK GOV). 

When dealing with waste, you will need to consider its potential reusability, whether it is hazardous or not and if it can be classified as a by-product. The UK government offers guidance (graph below) on whether or not an object/substance should be considered waste. Different types of waste (e.g., Construction, Demolition and Excavation (CDE) waste) and materials will likely have varying regulations that must be complied with before it ceases to be waste. 

waste graphic

For example, CDE waste that comes through our recycling facility only ceases to be waste, and considered a product when it complies with the WRAP quality protocol, has met all other regulations and left the site with a specific use, i.e.: a load of 6F5 has left the site to be used as subbase for a customer. Material must undergo a complete recovery/treatment process and put to final use before it is no longer considered waste. Until this point the material is still considered a waste and everyone involved in the treatment process must comply with all waste regulations (EU Waste Directive).



Duty of Care 

Everyone has a duty to ensure that waste is dealt with correctly and safely. We all have a legal responsibility to store waste properly, transfer it to the appropriate people, and describe the waste accurately. This will allow it to be safely recovered or, if it isn’t appropriate for reuse or recycle, disposed of responsibly.  

The waste chain involves a range of different people who each hold different responsibilities at different points. The Waste Producer (e.g., company on-site), the Waste collector/Transporter (those who pick up waste from site), the Waste Manager (e.g., Brewster Brothers) and waste brokers (e.g. Reconomy) all have a Duty of Care to deal with the waste correctly.  

If you are the producer of waste, how you manage it at source ultimately determines the value which can be derived from it. You are also in the best position to accurately describe the waste and ensure safe downstream management. You therefore have the most important role.

The Duty of Care is in place for several reasons. It is important that everyone holds a legal responsibility in dealing with their waste, which will mitigate the risk of illegal dumping or burning of waste which could be hazardous. These actions can have hugely detrimental effects on public health, local wildlife and the natural environment. We can avoid this by recirculating our materials back into the economy to create high-quality recycled products. 

Requirements for the Duty of Care are outlined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 34).



The Waste Hierarchy  

The European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) was introduced in 2010, aiming to change attitudes towards waste. Rather than waste being seen as a burden, we need to view it as a valuable resource, which can contribute towards sustainable development. A five-step waste hierarchy was introduced to help drive waste towards recovery rather than landfill disposal.

Waste Hierarchy (ScotGov, 2017)


We know that waste legislation can be a bit of a minefield at times, but it is important to ensure everyone understands their Duty of Care in dealing with waste responsibility. By complying, we can avoid any risk of damage to wildlife, public health and the natural environment, while contributing towards the circular economy.  

For any enquiries related to your orders with Brewster Brothers, get in touch with our team who will be happy to help. For more detailed guidance, contact Albion Environmental, who are specialists with all things waste related and will be able to give you expert advice and training. 

Look out for the rest of the blogs in our waste series as we dive further into waste regulations and classification.