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Waste Management and the NEBOSH General Certificate


A large quantity of plastic waste washed up on a beach

Anybody with a job role that involves waste management or other environmental issues will often opt to complete a NEBOSH Environmental Certificate qualification, as this focuses specifically upon environmental issues and factors which cause a business to have a negative impact upon the surrounding environment.

For those who do not have a specific environmental requirement, the NEBOSH General Certificate - information on which can be found by clicking here - also touches upon the subject of the environment and issues like waste management. Whilst by no means as in-depth or comprehensive regarding environmental issues as the Environmental Certificate will be, the NEBOSH General Certificate still provides a useful overview of information on the matter.

Why do Businesses Need to Pay Attention to Waste?

Waste is a major issue for both businesses and households alike. Businesses in particular are often subject to more stringent rules and regulations due to the larger amount of waste which they produce compared to an individual household. With extremely large fines and possible criminal prosecution a possibility for serious breaches of environmental legislation, managers and employees in an organisation need to be aware of their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions, so that they can comply with the law for their particular jurisdiction.

How Can Business Waste Harm the Environment?

The term "waste" can incorporate a great variety of items and substances. Each one will have a different effect upon the environment in terms of toxicity, longevity (e.g. plastic which will take many years to degrade) and how big an area it can damage.

Businesses operating in different industries will produce very different waste. It may even be slightly different to the waste produced by firms in the same industry who have different manufacturing processes. This means that each firm will have to conduct an environmental risk assessment which is unique to them, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.

Types of Waste Produced by Businesses

Examples of certain types of waste which can be produced by businesses include:


One of the biggest environmental issues of modern times, plastic waste is a major problem all over the world. It is a particular problem in oceans, where it is eaten by marine creatures and causes ill-health or death. This is especially true of microplastics, which are tiny particles that are formed from degrading larger pieces, or microbeads which are used in products such as toothpaste or as exfoliants in skin cleansers (Source:

Not only is the amount produced an issue, but a characteristic of most plastic is that it does not degrade easily or quickly. Items such as plastic bottles can take around 450 years to degrade, meaning that it will not disappear anytime soon.

Liquid Waste

A great number of manufacturing processes require liquid to be used in some way which will be released as waste. Whether it be as a lubricant for drills or saws, a coolant to regulate the temperature of hot machinery, or even just to wash and clean equipment before and after use, this liquid is then likely to be surplus to requirements if it cannot be re-used again.

This liquid is likely to be extremely poisonous to plant, animal and aquatic life. If it is released into the surrounding environment by the business – either accidentally or deliberately – it can cause extensive damage, death and destruction. Liquid can also travel great distances through streams, rivers and groundwater, so it has the potential to adversely affect a large area, and making the problem difficult to contain.

Related Page: Waste Water

Organic Waste

When most people think of substances that can cause damage to health and the environment, pretty much all will think of toxic man-made chemicals or hazardous substances created by processes such as manufacturing and heavy industry.

Whilst the above will most often be the case, health hazards can exist from purely natural, organic sources as well.

Waste food matter is one such source. This can come from businesses such as farms, food processing facilities or abattoirs which may not use 100% of the biological matter, meaning that some needs disposing of.

As this article regarding household food recycling shows, decomposing organic matter can create health issues from methane and fungus spores.

Toxic Gas Emissions

One of the most iconic images of waste produced from factories and other businesses is the smoking chimney. The release of toxic gas emissions from fossil fuel power stations or manufacturing plants is an environmental issue which has been highlighted and discussed for decades. Despite some attempts, with varying degrees of success, to limit toxic emissions such as the Kyoto Protocol, the release of greenhouse and other poisonous gases remain amongst the biggest causes of global warming.

Moral and Legal Obligation to Manage and Reduce Waste

Just as there are moral and legal reasons for company managers to pay attention to health and safety, the same is true for waste and by-products that can cause damage to the environment.

Not only this, but companies that are seen to be actively taking steps to prevent harm from coming to the environment can achieve a significant boost to their reputation in the eyes of potential customers. They also have far less of a risk of suffering a huge drop in trust and reputation that would come were they to cause environmental damage. One of the biggest examples of this is BP and the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

How will NEBOSH Courses Help?

Whilst finding out, understanding and complying with relevant legislation is your responsibility, a NEBOSH course such as the General Certificate or the Environmental Certificate will provide you and your employees with a good understanding of environmental waste issues and how these can harm and negatively impact the health, safety and wellbeing of life in the vicinity, including humans.

These courses will also teach attendees the importance and necessity of recycling, re-using and reducing the amount of waste produced by the business, as well as other factors such as the need to segregate certain types of materials to prevent a further health and safety risk, as well as the safe and correct disposal of certain hazardous substances and materials.

They are only intended to provide general information and good guidance, rather than specific advice, so it will still be up to you to find out and comply with all applicable legislation according to the waste your company produces. But for those who require a general overview and understanding of businesses and environmental/health and safety risks, they are ideal.

NEBOSH General Certificate Articles

Please see below for some articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification which you may be interested in:

Articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate course

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