A Waste of Good Topsoil?

Posted in Advice, by admin

Waste Topsoil

Topsoil isn’t a waste, right? Wrong!. Topsoil and other useful excavated materials such as clay, subsoil and peat is regarded as a waste if it is excavated in the course of a development project and is surplus to the site’s requirements.

Cost-Effective & Environmentally Beneficial

Often, the most cost-effective and environmentally-beneficial option is to transfer excavated soils to other development sites for re-use. However if it is waste, the producer must make sure they comply with their 'Duty of Care', including ensuring that the receiving site is authorised to accept the material.

How Can We Transfer Waste Soils From One Site to Another?

There are two main options depending on the quantity involved (note that these apply in England & Wales only; different options are available in Scotland:

Option 1 - U1 Waste Exemption

Waste exemptions allow organisations to carry out waste-related activities such as the beneficial use of waste materials without the need to obtain an Environmental Permit. They are free and take up to five working days to register. The U1 waste exemption allows the use of certain construction wastes including uncontaminated soils and stones in construction projects. Limits on quantities apply and other Duty of Care requirements must be complied with. In the case of soils, the limit is 1,000 tonnes.

A site with surplus soil can send up to 1,000 tonnes to another site, or to multiple sites, providing they each have a U1 exemption registered and valid. A great option for smaller quantities, however what if a site wants to import more than 1,000 tonnes?

Option 2 – CL:AIRE Code of Practice

The CL:AIRE ‘Definition of Waste: Development Industry Code of Practice’ allows the direct transfer of clean naturally-occurring soils from one development site to another, as a ‘non-waste’.

For the CoP to be applied, a Materials Management Plan (MMP) must be produced along with supporting evidence to demonstrate that the use of the material will not pose a risk to human health or the environment, it is suitable for use and its intended use is legal.

Once completed, the Materials Management Plan must be reviewed by an independent CL:AIRE Qualified Person, who then completes an online declaration. Once the declaration is submitted, the transfer of soils can begin (there is no need to wait for approval from the Environment Agency / Natural Resources Wales).

The only costs associated with use of the CoP are the Qualified Person’s fee and an administration fee payable to CL:AIRE, which is based on the quantity of material being transferred (up to 5,000m3 is free of charge; above that the fee is £10 per 1,000m3 i.e. for 6,000m3 the fee is £60).


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