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Waste generation is an inevitable consequence of consumerism. As the costs of waste disposal increase (due to rising landfill tax, the increasing fuel costs associated with waste transportation and increasingly stringent environmental legislation), waste is being more actively managed at source.  

A significant proportion of Hertfordshire's household waste is landfilled, most being exported out of the county. Looking to the future, to become sustainable, the county must tackle its waste within the county boundaries.

Types of waste

Waste generated by development is produced through three main activities:

  • Construction waste: major components include soils (often mixed with other materials), concrete, masonry, stone, metal (largely steel), glass, plasterboard, timber, packaging, insulation, bituminous materials such as road planings and architectural features. The table below shows the break down of waste generated during the construction phase of development.
  • Operational waste: the largest share of waste can be generated by building operations, i.e. building occupation. Although operational waste management practices are at the discretion of the building user, effective operations are strongly influenced by the design and fit out of a building.
  • Refurbishment/demolition waste: includes all building materials, building services, furniture and landscape materials and features.

The construction industry is responsible for producing around one third of all waste in the UK.  The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) are working closely with the construction sector to reduce the environmental impacts of construction and make it more resource efficient.

Principles of sustainable waste management

Population and household growth in Hertfordshire put increasing pressure on waste management in the county. Consequently, the need to actively manage waste streams in Hertfordshire has never been more significant. 

Sustainable waste management can be actively addressed through the planning process in the following ways:  

  • Reducing the quantity of materials required for the building.
  • Reducing the amount of waste generated.
  • Management of construction and demolition wastes.
  • Materials specifications (e.g. use of reclaimed and recycled materials).
  • Provision of recycling space/facilities.

The nationally accepted framework or approach for achieving reductions in waste arisings and sustainable waste management is the Waste Hierarchy.

Waste hierarchy

The waste hierarchy provides a framework where waste management options are set out in priority order to enable  to correct choice to be made when assessing how to deal with waste. In the hierarchy, waste prevention is the ost environmentally friendly and disposal the least. 

The hierarchy applies to all waste streams, not only those directly influenced by this guide. 

Waste - basic principles - waste hierarchy 


Waste reduction

By preventing waste before it occurs, money can be saved on the collection, treatment or disposals costs of waste. It also reduced the environmental impact and costs of extracting more raw materials, production and use. 

Materials reuse

Reusing products and materials for the same (or alternative) purpose is the next preference. Before a material can be reused it should be assessed for its quality as it may be necessary to make minor repairs or additions before the product can reach the required standard.

Recycling and composting

Recycling involves the collection, separation and processing of wastes to make new products, e.g. newspapers are regularly recycled either to make new newspapers or eco-friendly home insulation. Composting is the same process but with organic wastes, e.g. food waste composted to make new fertiliser products. 

Recycling and composting processes usually require some energy to work well; however, the energy and cost to alternatively make new products from scratch are usually much greater. The economic viability of recycling/composting depends on factors such as the quality of the waste stream, the transport distances involved and the market price for the recycled materials which can fluctuate significantly. The aim should be to recycle construction wastes as close to their source as possible as they are typically heavy and bulky to transport.

Energy recovery

Energy from waste incineration recovers a proportion of energy from the waste stream; however, usually much less than by recycling/composting, reusing or reducing the waste generated in the first instance.

Landfill disposal

Disposal is the last option in the waste hierarchy and therefore the aim is to divert waste from this end destination. The only landfill in Hertfordshire currently accepting waste (Westmill in Ware) only has permission to continue recieving waste until 2017.

Proximity principle

The transportation of waste can incur significant environmental and nuisance impacts plus unwanted additional cost. Therefore, the proximity principle encourages processing, recycling, reuse or disposal of waste as near to the point of its production as possible.

Benefits of sustainable waste management

Sustainable waste management delivers lots of benefits:

  • Reduced waste disposal costs (notably Landfill and Aggregates taxes).
  • Reduced pressures on finite resources, such as virgin aggregates.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from landfill and incineration.
  • Reduced energy consumption from the manufacturing process.
  • Increased economic productivity.
  • Reduced requirement for additional landfill capacity.
  • Reduced nuisance created by odour and visual intrusion from landfill sites.
  • Improved corporate reporting and green credentials for business.

Typical practice 

Waste - basic principles - typical practice

A - White goods and scrap

B - Textiles

C- The average household in Hertfordshire send 15kg of waste to landfill every week

D - Furniture

E - Paper and cardboard

F - Kitchen waste

G - Garden waste 

Good practice 

Waste - basic principles - good practice

A - White goods and scrap

B - Textiles

C - Furniture

D - Paper and cardboard

- Purchase of food with reduced/no packaging

- All kitchen and garden waste (other than meat, bones, etc) into compost bin or wormery - 30% of total waste volume