ISO 14001 Waste Management Requirements Explained

Organisations are increasingly conscious of the climate crisis, which is leading many to turn to ISO 14001.

This international standard describes best-practice waste management. Organisations that follow its requirements will be equipped to identify hazardous waste and handle materials efficiently and responsibly.

In this blog, we explain how to meet ISO 14001’s requirements and reduce the damage that your organisation does to the environment.

What is ISO 14001 and who is it for?

Organisations handle hazardous waste more often than they think. Such materials can be found in everyday items such as electronic devices, fluorescent lamps and batteries.

If those materials aren’t properly stored and disposed of, they can have a damaging effect on human health and the environment.

To combat these risks, ISO 14001 provides a framework to ensure that organisations identify materials that can cause harm and implement a process for disposing of them safely.

The Standard is built around the implementation of an EMS (environmental management system), which contains the processes and policies required to reduce waste.

How does ISO 14001 work?

ISO 14001’s main aim is to reduce the amount of waste an organisation produces. It does this in several ways. For example, it encourages organisations to reuse by-products for other services and to separate waste into recyclable and non-recyclable materials.

It also helps organisations define who within the business is responsible for managing resources and facilities. When paired with KPIs (key performance indicators), this creates set goals for waste management and helps motivate employees to reduce waste.

Likewise, an ISO 14001-compliant EMS ensures that organisations measure the environmental impact of their business processes. This ensures that waste management is a company-wide issue and one that fosters a culture of environmental responsibility.

What are the benefits of ISO 14001?

The obvious benefit of effective waste management is environmental protection – an issue that many people are rightly concerned about.

An ISO 14001-compliant EMS also improves employee morale, with staff aware that their organisation takes the climate crisis seriously.

However, ISO 14001 isn’t just about social responsibility. It also has tangible business benefits, and ensures that the cost of implementing and operating an EMS is worth it.

For example, effective waste management helps organisations operate more efficiently, therefore improving performance. It can also reduce water, gas and electricity bills, helping the organisation save money.

The Standard also supports compliance with relevant laws, such as the UK Environment Act 2021.

Finally, an effective waste management system boosts an organisation’s reputation. Businesses can use their EMS to demonstrate social responsibility and gain a competitive advantage.

How to handle waste according to ISO 14001

As with many other international standards, ISO 14001 recognises that every organisation is unique and that frameworks cannot be too prescriptive.

It’s why it doesn’t offer one set way to address waste management. The Standard instead urges organisations to identify specific challenges and implement appropriate controls.

The process for doing that typically follows this pattern:

  1. Evaluate your waste: your first task is to identify waste products and determine whether special dispensations are required for their storage and disposal.
  2. Store your waste: you must ensure that waste kept on your premises is stored in a way appropriate to the risk that it presents.
  3. Label the waste: most countries are required by law to label hazardous waste. By contrast, non-hazardous materials typically don’t need to be labelled.
  4. Dispose of the waste: you are required to dispose of hazardous waste responsibly. You might need to transport the materials to an appropriate location, which could mean hiring a licensed professional.
  5. Plan for emergencies: even with appropriate waste management processes in place, mistakes can happen. You must have access to emergency response equipment in the event of spillages and other emergencies.
  6. Staff training: employees who handle or store hazardous material must be trained to handle equipment responsibly and follow safety guidelines.
  7. Document your practices: you must be able to demonstrate that you handle hazardous waste properly in the event of an accident or an audit. You can achieve this by documenting the steps you have taken to comply with the Standard.

Getting started with ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is suitable for organisations of any size and in any sector. If you’re looking for more support, IT Governance Publishing is here to help.

Our ISO 14001 Documentation Toolkit contains a complete set of templates as well as a selection of software tools to manage your compliance project.

This includes the ISO 14001 Conversion Tool, Gap Analysis Tool and Documentation Dashboard.

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