EA Urges Builders to Follow Duty of Care

In a press release published in March 2021, the Environment Agency warned waste from building sites which has not been handled properly can be very harmful to public health, communities, and the environment. Some waste taken from construction sites may consist of hazardous chemicals and toxins (e.g. asbestos) which cannot be taken to waste sites that only receive inert waste (e.g. sand and clay).

The press release outlines how in the past year, the EA has acted against those who illegally collect and dump waste which originated from construction sites. The press release goes on to highlight alarming trends that have been spotted relating to construction waste, such as reports of workers having to receive medical attention after collecting contaminated waste. This occurred at a site in Bournemouth when workers were told they were dealing with inert waste, as a result the workers became ill and were sent to A&E. The EA served a ‘Stop notice’ until they carried out further testing on the waste.

There have also been instances of skip businesses obtaining waste from building sites then dumping it, this can cause air, ground, and water pollution, and create odour issues. For example, Stephen Lack was prosecuted for this sort of activity. He is currently in jail and facing clean-up costs amounting to £750,000.

Other concerning illegal activity includes criminals who have made millions burning or burying such waste. For example, John Bruce attended court in December 2020 to face charges relating to 25,000 cubic metres of waste that he either dumped, buried, or burned on his farm. He was ordered to pay £2.1 million under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to ensure he did not financially benefit from the crimes he had committed and to recover the cost to the taxpayer of prosecuting him.

In response, the EA has urged all construction and demolition sites that produce, transport, treat, or dispose of waste to fulfil their duty of care obligations. Failing to send waste to legal waste collectors can result in builders receiving a fine up to £50,000.

Businesses operating in the construction industry must use a registered waste carrier to collect, recycle or dispose of waste originating from their site. It is worth checking the Environment Agency public register of waste carriers before instructing them. Also, check the waste is described accurately so it is managed safely and you know where your waste ends up.