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Drive for sustainability is a green diversionary tactic

John McKenna writes some interesting summaries of NCE's Waste Summit conference (NCE 27 March).
The efforts of many major contractors to bring in site waste management plans is to be applauded, and many real cost and time savings have accrued.

However, I am worried by the apparent "green investor" sub-text of some of these operations and the misuse of definitions.

The drive for "sustainability" includes major companies getting "plus points" for diverting waste spoil from landfill. What they are actually doing is sending hazardous soils to a facility that merely bio-treats the spoil at the gate before landfilling it as suitable non-hazardous waste.
This is far more cost-effective for the waste producer than trucking the spoil to a hazardous landfill, but let's not think we are saving any landfill void by that action.

The main problem, as the article by Damian Arnold points out, is the ridiculous UK definition of waste that still militates against on-site treatment and re-use of contaminated soils. This is coupled with the unfortunate proliferation of problems with recycled aggregate production trying to service a ready market for a product in demand, but apparently not achieving WRAP protocols very easily.

The sooner that the long-awaited soil treatment centre "cluster" hubs become a functioning reality, the sooner we will really start reducing waste from construction excavations sustainably.

 MIKE SUMMERSGILL, associate director, RSK Geoconsult, Anerley Court, Half Moon Lane, Hildenborough, Tonbridge, Kent TN11 9HU

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