Book a Site Demo

    We are happy to come to your site and demonstrate our range of products. Please complete the form and we'll be in contact shortly to arrange a date and time.

    I’m happy for Green Rhino to contact me and store my details.


    Best Practice for Pollution Prevention Part 1: Spill Control

    According to research conducted by construction blog Bimhow, the construction sector causes 40% of all water pollution. Most senior environment professionals would claim they are well aware of the risks and have preventative and reactive procedures in place. This may, on the face of it, be true but we visit sites every week – including those of the biggest companies – and what we find is a lot of bad practice when it comes to construction spill control, drain protection and dewatering.

    By bad practice, we don’t just mean the absence of pollution prevention measures in one area or another but also approaches known by local managers to be flawed. The latter is box-ticking – making it look like you are doing the job when you know you are not. The Environment Managers that invite us onsite aren’t willing to accept these bad practices.

    What is surprising, however, is that having implemented best practices on one site many companies fail to roll it out onto every other site. ‘We don’t do that’ is a frustration commonly aired. ‘Each project can make its own decisions’ is another. Even when the approach being taken has been denounced by the Environment team and a better, more cost-effective solution recommended. This defies common sense but, worse, is damaging the environment.

    In this Best Practice Guide to Preventing Pollution on Construction Sites, we shine a light on some common bad practices and suggest how you can do the job more effectively and, crucially, without necessarily having to spend more.

    Flawed Spill Control

    Most companies understand that they need to use some form of spill pad or spill mat underneath motorised equipment. Capturing oil leaks and refuelling spills is a key part of site spill control policy. But it’s hardly best practice to use absorbent or rigid spill trays which fill with oily water every time it rains or allow the captured hydrocarbons to drain out of the absorbent layer.

    Every environment manager we meet openly admits that flooded trays and nappies are left to overflow or that site workers empty the contaminated water onto the ground when full.

    Claims that spill products made from traditional polypropylene absorbents won’t leak are demonstrably untrue. These absorbents act like sponges: they’ll absorb hydrocarbons but they’ll also let them out again.

    Think about how these products are used: they are carried out onto site where they are positioned underneath an item of equipment or fuel bowser. Some may even be hung up on the side of equipment inbetween uses. At some point the spill pad or nappy will be moved across site to a new location, taken back to stores or returned to the back of a maintenance van. While these products are carried or stored vertically, the captured hydrocarbons will gravitate to the bottom and drain out onto the ground or floor (or onto workers’ clothing). Our tests show that products made from absorbent materials like polypropylene will lose around 90% of the absorbed hydrocarbons this way.

    So you’re not preventing pollution by using these products – you’re just delaying it.

    Best Practice Spill Control

    In the UK, most of the top 25 construction companies now use the Green Rhino EnviroPad® for spill control. You may find that some of your sites do. Morgan Sindall listed the EnviroPad spill mat on the Considerate Constructors Best Practice Hub and, in a 2018 Sustainability Case Study, Balfour Beatty said ‘EnviroPad overcomes the flaws of the Plant Nappy.’

    EnviroPad is different because it doesn’t take the form of a spill tray and so doesn’t collect rainwater. But it’s what’s inside that’s the clever bit. This innovative product uses smart polymers to absorb hydrocarbons and turn them into a non-toxic, non-leaching solid.

    The solidified hydrocarbons can’t leak out and won’t be washed out by rainwater or even jet washing. Site workers prefer it because it is cleaner and easier to handle.

    Surprisingly, EnviroPad costs less than nappy-style spill trays too.

    The EnviroPad spill pad works with all common hydrocarbons found around construction sites – motor oil, petrol, diesel, hydraulic fluid and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO).

    Learn more about EnviroPad here. For a free onsite toolbox talk, please use the orange button in the header and footer.

    Now read Part 2: Drain Protection which looks at the best way to keep water-borne sediment out of the drainage system.