The Different Types of Waste Soils

Waste Soils is a term you will hear frequently when working in the construction industry. This is because according to Defra, the construction industry generates 51 million tonnes of waste soils which accounts for around 43% of all construction waste and 25% of total UK waste generated in 2016.

What are waste soils?

Waste soils can be described as material that is no longer needed on site, this may be for a few reasons i.e. excess material or contamination.

Soils arise from construction sites when bases or foundations need to be created because you must first create void space by excavating the area. This void space is then filled with aggregates to create the foundation. If the excavated soils cannot be reused on-site, then any excess material needs to be removed and sent to a location that is permitted to accept them.

Also, during the initial site investigation, onsite material will be tested to highlight its chemical and physical properties. If any of the material is deemed too contaminated or could pose a threat to human and environmental health, it will need to be excavated and removed from the site.

Types of waste soils

There are a variety of different classifications when it comes to waste soils. If you want to dispose of your material, it must first be classified in accordance with the Waste (England & Wales) Regulations to determine if it has any hazardous properties. It will be classified using the List of Wastes (LoW) or European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code which sits in category 17-05 soil (including excavated soil from contaminated sites), stones, and dredging spoil. You can view the full list of EWC code here

Before material can be sent to landfill a WAC (Waste Acceptance Criteria) or chemical testing suite needs to be conducted on the site material. This will highlight the soil’s chemical properties and will highlight whether the material is Inert or Hazardous.

If you are looking to dispose at a landfill the final decision on the classification of material will be set by the accepting landfills acceptance criteria. The classification will be one of the following:

Inert soil

Inert Soil is not contaminated with any harmful substances and can be described as clean. The material does not pose any threat to human health, or the environment and is not chemically or biologically reactive. A few examples of inert materials include:

Due to the safe nature of inert soil, they can be recycled or reused on other development sites rather than being sent to landfills. They also require a lower disposal/recovery fee compared to non-hazardous and hazardous soils.

Non-Hazardous soil

Non-Hazardous soils contain small levels of substances such as Heavy Metals, Hydrocarbons, TPH, etc. The concentration of these materials is limited meaning they will not react with each other or other contaminants.

This means non-hazardous materials do not pose a threat to human or environmental health but still need to be managed to ensure safety. Here are a few examples of what makes soil non-hazardous:

Hazardous soil

Hazardous soils have harmful qualities and can cause a threat to human health or the local environment. This material must be correctly handled by a licensed waste carrier and a waste transfer note must document the materials’ current location, transporter, and disposal site. There are strict permits on the acceptance of these materials and only specifically permitted sites can accept this material. Here are a few examples of what can make soils hazardous:

GMAT is a licensed waste carrier and has partnered with soil recovery sites located across the UK which are permitted to accept waste soils arising from construction developments.

For a free soil, classification get in touch on 0161 647 7409 or email

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