The New Papworth Hospital has started to use Sodium Polyacrylate (a super absorbent hydrogel that can retain 300 times its own weight in water) to absorb small amounts of plasterboard tape and jointing washout waste.
Small amounts of non-hazardous liquid waste (tool wash down etc.) have long been an issue for the construction industry where the disposal of this waste has not been specified within trade effluent permits (if the site has attained one). Disposal via tanker is often impractical and expensive given the small quantities, evaporation methods have proven to be ineffective due to the time/ undercover storage needed as well as leaving it as a spill hazard.
Sodium Polyacrylate has been advertised previously to the construction industry for the management of drilling sludge in city centre locations but has had a slow take up. It is more commonly used in nappies, the preservation of cut flowers as well as being used as a moisture retainer for soils in agriculture.
The idea to use the product to deal with small amounts of liquid construction waste was proposed by the sites environmental adviser and the Environment Agency was contacted regarding if it would be classified as a waste treatment operation and need a permit.
After a series of questions regarding the use of the product it was agreed that it would be classified as low risk activity. It is a preparatory step for transportation and therefore generating the waste and the treatment step is for the purpose of transportation only, as such the non-waste framework directive applies and there is no need for a permit.
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