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Looking for some good precedents on careful management of surplus soil from construction sites? The European Union Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98 EC) requires that all surplus soil from all construction sites be treated as waste, whether contaminated or not, but several jurisdictions make exceptions. For example, Northern Ireland publishes guidance allowing the reuse of some uncontaminated soils:

Excess soils from development sites are generally regarded as a waste and their end use must be regulated under a waste management license or an exemption from waste licensing. The Duty of Care controls also apply …. The guidance allows movement outside of the regulatory controls where it can be demonstrated that excess greenfield soil is uncontaminated and that it can be put to agreed specific re-use.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also publishes a Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites and some very useful “Toolbox Talks” on managing surplus soils. For example, the Soil Management Toolbox Talk cautions: DON’T rely on a geotechnical survey or investigation of land contamination for detailed information on re-usable topsoil and subsoil resources.

Which soils require additional precautions? According to Northern Ireland:

  • Excavated peat arising from construction activities on peat land.
  • Soil from land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, and/or associated fixed infrastructure. Previously developed land may occur in both built-up and rural settings.
  • Soil from land previously classed as industrial or for military use, e.g. former mines and quarries, landfill sites, former infill sites, Ministry of Defence land.
  • Soil contaminated by flytipping, chemicals or where invasive species are present.
  • Soil with naturally elevated concentrations of metals (e.g. nickel, chromium, arsenic, etc).
  • Soil contaminated with any other substances including, though not restricted to, ash, asbestos, oil shale, mining spoil, plastics, glass, metals, and liquids.
  • General construction and demolition wastes including concrete, bricks, tiles and plasterboard.
  • Slurries or sewage sludge.
  • Dredging spoil.
  • Soil from any site containing noxious weeds or notifiable plant diseases
  • Any other controlled waste or soil containing any other controlled waste.


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