We will reduce the amount of material we use and minimise the amount of waste we produce.

What is waste?

Waste is an unwanted or unusable material, substance, or by-product. A material is considered to be waste when the producer or holder either discards it, intends to discard it, or is required to discard it. Examples of waste include household waste, commercial waste, construction and demolition waste, and hazardous waste.

When assessing whether a material is waste or not, discarding doesn’t simply mean throwing away or getting rid of something. Discarding also covers activities and operations such as recycling and energy recovery.

Why is waste important to Network Rail?

Network Rail is a major producer of waste and generates a wide range of waste types including; construction wastes, demolition wastes, commercial wastes and hazardous wastes. On average, Network Rail generates over 2 million tonnes of waste each year which has significant financial impacts to the business when managing it.

It is important for Network Rail to reduce waste because of the environmental, legal, financial and social implications of not handling waste effectively.

What is Network Rail’s approach to waste?

Network Rail is transitioning to a circular economy way of thinking when buying materials and managing waste. All decisions we make should be made in respect of the Waste Management Hierarchy.

Here are some examples of how we prioritise our decisions in line with the Hierarchy:

  • Often our projects hold workshops which aim to reduce the amount of materials used in an engineering design, therefore reducing the amount of waste that will be generated down the line.
    • We always try and reuse our sleepers and rail back into the network before reprocessing them as recyclable material which uses more energy and costs more.
    • We provide segregated recycling bins/skips in all of our depots, managed stations and offices. This is so that we give our staff and the public the facilities to maximise recycling rates and reduce the amount that is sent to energy recovery or landfill.

Network Rail’s Supply Chain Operations (SCO) team sell, both internally and externally, reused network assets, such as sleepers and rail and also recycled products, such as aggregates from waste ballast. For the full range of products and how to obtain quotes please visit the Railway Recycling website; this generates new revenue for Network Rail, whilst also enabling us to be more resource efficient.


Network Rail owns assets which contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are man-made compounds that were frequently used as insulation and coolant oils in electrical apparatus such as transformers and capacitors. PCBs are recognized as being harmful and their resistance to degradation means they persist in the environment and build up in food chains. Use of PCBs in new equipment was banned in 1986 but existing equipment with PCB content could still be in use.

Key contacts:

For specific waste concerns please contact the National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or follow this link for a number of ways to get in touch.

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