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Waste Management in Engineering — Repairing, Recycling, and Innovating

Posted on 26 August 2020

Waste management is a fundamental part of any business, but it can often be forgotten. In many sectors of engineering, from civil engineering to electro mechanical engineering, responsible waste management is of the utmost importance. After all, the waste produced by large engineering firms can be staggering, and potentially hazardous. As well as managing their own production waste in line with government regulations and environmental laws, it often comes down to engineering firms to work towards new, efficient waste-management solutions for everyone.

How much waste are construction and engineering responsible for?

According to the 2020 Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report on waste and resources, the UK’s commercial and industrial sectors were responsible for 41.1 million tonnes of waste in 2016 (33.1 million tonnes of which was generated in England alone). In the same year, the construction, demolition, and excavation (CDE) industries generated around three fifths (62 per cent) of the UK’s total waste.

As well as the vast amount of waste produced by these commercial sectors, consideration must also be given to the hazardous nature of some of the waste produced. Many of the waste contributions from the engineering and construction sectors are classified as hazardous and fall under the Hazardous Waste Regulations (2005). Under this legislation, each company that produces hazardous waste is liable for disposing of this waste in a responsible way. This warrants the need for a licensed waste carrier with the appropriate site permits.

What are the best waste management solutions?

Within the CDE industries, there are many different waste management solutions to consider. When dealing with hazardous and electrical waste, it isn’t an option to simply dump excess materials. In 2014, the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations became law, in response to the fact that an estimated two million tonnes of WEEE items are discarded each year. According to the Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP), electrical waste is the fastest growing source of waste in the UK. Of course, households play a part in this waste disposal as well, but the majority of damage is done by companies.

In response to this, the engineering sector has come up with numerous solutions, and ways in which themselves and companies in other sectors can better manage industrial waste. These methods include:

  • Treatment technologies: this includes research into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste and treating said waste to make it safer to store, transport, and repurpose.
  • Recycling and re-purposing: for the engineering and construction industries, it’s both environmentally friendly and cost-effective to reuse and repurpose waste wherever possible. As well as recycling, repairing is another cost-efficient and environmentally beneficial way of cutting down on waste. Conducting electric motor repair, for example, could drastically decrease the amount of WEEE waste in the long run.
  • Facilities and systems: as well as managing their own waste, engineering and construction companies are responsible for coming up with efficient waste management solutions across a variety of sectors. Designing and developing waste management facilities and systems such as waste processing plants or drainage systems is a fundamental part of the industry.

Engineering and construction companies may well create many waste management solutions, but when it comes to disposing of their own company’s waste, contacting an expert is imperative. Many specific hazardous waste companies are currently in operation in the UK, and they will organise the safe collection, recycling, and disposal of your waste — even the substances that are particularly dangerous or hazardous.

As well as historically being responsible for a large amount of industrial waste, the engineering industry is constantly coming up with new, innovative waste management ideas. With more emphasis than ever being placed on the importance of recycling or repairing rather than disposing of vital materials, this sector is on track to become greener and more responsible than ever before.