Laying Waste To Waste

Ian Wakelin, CEO of Biffa, looks at the construction sectors’ response to waste

An estimated £90 billion a year is generated by the building industry in the United Kingdom. The amount of waste generated by the construction industry at every stage of the supply chain will rise in tandem with the number of projects and the demand for materials and aggregates.

When discussing the issue of waste in the construction sector, the focus is frequently on trash generation at large building project sites. The Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP) Regulations were initially put up in 2008, the same year that the government published its Strategy for Sustainable Construction, pledging a 50 per cent reduction of construction, demolition and excavation (CD&E) waste to landfill by 2012 compared to 2008 levels.

Although the SWMP Regulations have since been abolished and are no longer a legal requirement, the adoption of SWMPs is still regarded good practise and supported by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) as a valuable guide for managing waste on large building projects.

Construction sites, on the other hand, are only a small portion of the overall supply chain. Before construction items have even reached on site, they have already been through manufacture, storage and logistical operations that generate their own waste. In spite of the fact that this component of the supply chain is less conspicuous, it is crucial to waste reduction and the achievement of industrial government goals.

The construction products business generates an annual revenue of £40 billion and is made up of enterprises that manufacture and supply building and renovation supplies. With an 18% increase in output by 2017, it accounts for more than a third of all construction output. Bricks, ceramics, concrete, flooring, insulation, and aggregates are just a few of the many items available.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the construction industry generates 40 million tonnes of waste annually, a significant fraction of which is generated by the manufacturing of construction items (DEFRA).

However, while big construction sites have long been required to evaluate their use of resources and provided with a standardised framework to plan their waste management with SWMPs, it has not always been the case for construction product makers in this regard.

When it came to achieving Sustainable Construction’s goals, product producers paid insufficient attention to resource efficiency, according to a 2011 Action Plan report on the delivery of targets. Research on the joinery business, for example, indicated that yield rates from a section of timber can often be as low as 20 per cent, implying that considerable amounts of wood are being wasted.

Many government and business organisations are now available to assist construction product producers in streamlining their operations and reducing the amount of waste they generate in the manufacturing and shipping of their goods. Despite the fact that they are not codified in law, they serve as a useful yardstick.

Resource Efficiency Action Plans (REAPs) are now available to download from the WRAP website for 11 common construction items including flooring, clay bricks and building insulation foam. Closed-loop manufacturing is promoted by each plan’s series of actions, which can lead to a decrease in product waste and an increase in resource efficiency.

In other situations, such as the Contract Flooring Association, plans have been produced in collaboration with a product-specific trade association, and many are reviewed annually to ensure that they remain current.
Work has also been performed by WRAP to boost the recycled content of construction products and its online Recycled Content Database enables construction professionals to search for materials containing recycled content and manufacturers to market these kinds of products. Specifying items with more recycled content is a straightforward and cost-effective technique of reaching a project’s sustainability requirements and is becoming popular with contractors.

As the efforts indicate, efficient waste and resource management strategies are founded upon much more than collecting and recycling waste – the entire product manufacturing process must be taken into consideration and analysed attentively.

Through our cooperation with top construction product manufacturers in quarries and factories all around the United Kingdom, Biffa helps them discover areas where they may improve efficiency throughout their whole process. Working with environmental managers and procurement managers at their firm facilities, we work through the process step by step to understand the waste generated at each stage and how this may be reduced.

The construction waste policy for England is currently the Construction 2025: Industrial strategy for construction. Offsite building is emphasised as a means of minimising construction waste to a minimum. The Government Green Building Board (GCB) is striving to drive procurement efficiency, which will embrace construction items, with projected targets to be set in due course.

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Companies engaging with a waste management partner can have a better understanding of how they can do their part to reduce trash going to landfill and help the government and industry organisations improve the green credentials and efficiency of the building sector.

Last Updated on December 29, 2021


Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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