Site Waste Management Plans and collaboration platforms


In England, Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) will become a legal requirement this weekend – from 6 April 2008 – and will affect anyone procuring, designing, planning or managing a construction project costing more than £300,000, plus suppliers to the construction industry, and environmental regulators ie: local authorities and the Environment Agency. Awareness of the legislation is not universal, despite the efforts of organisations such as NetRegs and Envirowise, among others, to produce simple free guides.

I have been interested in SWMPs since picking up a copy of a consultation paper at at Constructing Excellence sustainability event last summer, particularly as I think this is an area that is almost tailor-made for the information-sharing power of construction collaboration technologies.

SWMP duties

If you look at some of NetRegs’ outline of the obligations involved, the potential for online sharing of a SWMP become clear:

“Each project should have one SWMP.  … A SWMP is a live document.  It must be updated through the course of the project….”

“Because it is produced at the very beginning of a project, the designer can consider ways that waste can be reduced and site-gained materials can be reused or recycled as part of the project.  Identifying at waste materials at an early stage that can not be reused on that project will make it easier to find other alternative uses for them.”

As well as the designer’s inputs, the responsibilities for producing and managing the SWMP change as a project progresses:

“If you are the client, you are responsible for:

  • producing the initial SWMP before construction work begins
  • appointing the principal contractor
  • passing the SWMP to the principal contractor
  • updating the SWMP at least every three months if you decide to manage the project yourself.

“If you are the principal contractor, you are responsible for:

  • obtaining relevant information from sub-contractors
  • updating the SWMP at least every three months as the project progresses
  • keeping the SWMP on site during the project
  • ensuring that other contractors know where the SWMP is kept
  • allowing other contractors and the client access to the SWMP during the project
  • handing the completed SWMP back to the client at the end of the project
  • keeping a copy of the SWMP for two years. …”

“At the end of the project, you must review the plan and record the reasons for any differences between the plan and what actually happened.”

Online SWMPs

  • For the avoidance of doubt, and to maintain a single version of the truth, the SWMP should be placed in an online repository where it can be easily accessed and updated by any authorised member of a project team at any time during the project.
  • As every user interaction is recorded in an underlying audit trail, any regulator will quickly be able to ascertain when a SWMP was initially produced and when updated versions were produced.
  • Most sites have temporary office accommodation that includes standard equipment such as a telephone and a computer; so long as an authorised individual has access to an internet-connected computer equipped with a standard web-browser, he or she will be able to access, view and, if necessary, download and print a copy of the latest SWMP, regardless of location.
  • An online platform will also provide a single contact point for all sub-contractors to submit relevant information.
  • At the end of a project, the SWMP – plus the plan review contrasting planned and actual performance – will typically be one of the documents preserved in a post-project archive (either maintained online or downloaded to a storage device) for retention for the minimum two years.
  • Being in electronic form, such documents are eminently reusable, and so can help clients and contractors incorporate learning from previous projects into future ones.
  • Moreover, where clients or contractors are working across multiple projects, the ‘global reporting’ tools built into the more sophisticated collaboration platforms could be used to compare waste management performance across different sites, different designers, different supply chains, etc.

SWMP benefits

Some hard-nosed contractors will doubtless be moaning about the additional administrative burden of complying with yet more legislation, but, according to Envirowise, the benefits of SWMPs are clear:

  • Provides a structured approach to management and recycling on site
  • Reduces cost of waste management
  • Increase profit margins
  • Better control of regulatory risks relating to materials and wastes on site
  • Compliance of contractual needs of public and private sector
  • Improved response to queries from environmental regulatory agencies

So, corporate compliance is just one benefit, there are also financial benefits to be had, and, as corporate social responsibility emerges as an important theme for many organisations, SWMPs provide a mechanism for clients and their designers, contractors and suppliers to provide clear measures of a key aspect of their environmental performance.

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1 comment

    • Monica on 27 February 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I think a then/ now article explaining the implementation of SWMPs and the actual impact on environmental systems with the benefit of hindsight would be really powerful.

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