5 ways to reduce construction waste and increase sustainability

Construction accounts for a major proportion of global waste. In the UK alone, the sector generates up to 100 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) and uses more than 400 million tonnes of raw materials each year. This makes the sector the biggest extractor of materials and the biggest producer of waste in the country.

Clearly this is an area where much work needs to be done if we are to hit our environmental targets, and it starts with developers taking serious steps to reduce their construction waste and increase the sustainability of their projects.

Here are five ways to do that…

Is it important that you don't over order building materials?

Out of a whole range of different solutions, the simplest is to avoid over-ordering materials wherever possible. It has been estimated by Zero Waste Scotland (PDF) that as much as 13% of materials ordered for a construction project are discarded unused – leaving significant potential to cut wastage through material efficiency.

Ordering materials more efficiently will reduce the amount of waste produced by definition. If you don’t have as much on site to start with, you will have less to dispose of at the end. This also benefits the environment as it reduces the quantity of resources extracted in the first place.

Additionally, emphasising material efficiency when planning your project will cut your purchasing costs, and therefore the cost of development overall. The earlier you implement this strategy, the greater the savings will be. Going green costs less, and material efficiency is a perfect example of this. By not over-ordering materials, you are getting a win-win scenario which benefits you, your project and the planet.

Storing materials correctly to avoid damage and wastage

Storing materials correctly to avoid damage and waste is a companion to not over-ordering in the first place. If you can make what you have last longer through proper storage procedures, that will contribute towards your overall material efficiency and mean you don’t have to order so much in the first place.

The most obvious example of pitfalls of improper storage concerns plasterboard. It is an all too common site to see plasterboard left open to the elements, damaged by rainwater to the point where it is useless and has to be discarded. This is enormously wasteful from an environmental point of view and will also add costs to your project which can be easily avoided by correctly storing materials in the first place.

Alternatively, you can use plasterboard alternatives like Specwall which are not damaged by water, and therefore will allow you to order the exact amount you need safe in the knowledge that it will not need to be discarded if the rain gets to the product. For more information about the advantages Specwall offers over plasterboard, click here.

Recycling and reusing construction products

The waste management hierarchy – which should be followed on all projects – places an emphasis on re-using and recycling products wherever possible. In practice, this means that thought should be put into how all waste generated on your site could potentially be re-used, or recycled if that is not an option. According to PBC Today, creating a detailed Site Waste Management Plan can help to reduce on-site waste by up to 15%, which translates to 43% less waste heading to landfill

While creating a circular construction site economy, a so-called ‘closed loop’ system, will require a change from business as usual, it is another process that produces notable benefits from both environmental and project cost standpoints. If you can effectively recycle and reuse what you have, you will not have to order as much in the first place.

You could even go so far as to material reclamation, a practice that is beginning to take off in Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands and involves the re-use of perfectly good materials that have been discarded by other developers due to over-ordering. In a time when there are materials shortages across the continent, this might be a good method of speeding up your construction programme and saving money at the same time.

Try new materials and products

One of the best ways to achieve an effective r-use and recycling loop on your project is to embrace Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and try out new eco-friendly building materials and products which are transforming the construction industry. The properties and characteristics of MMC are such that they can supplement existing capacities and capabilities where appropriate, as well as replacing entirely the existing models and practises where there is the chance to do so.

Taking Specwall as an example, we already have the aforementioned example of how it outperforms plasterboard when it comes to water damage. Furthermore, Specwall panels are factory engineered to conform to the exact specifications of your build, meaning that you can eliminate the issue of over-ordering entirely and achieve superior materials efficiency.

Specwall panels also score highly when it comes to re-use and recycling. All off-cuts generated from Specwall during installation can be reused immediately on-site. Due to its nature as an inert, cementitious product, Specwall can also be fully recycled, including any dust generated during installation.

This sustainable walling system can also be re-cut and re-installed in different layouts if the internal layout of the building ever changes in the future, thereby eliminating the need to knock everything down and start again – saving on materials again and elongating the lifecycle of the building without drawing on even more natural resources.

Dispose of waste materials correctly

Construction sites of all types generate various types of waste, which the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 requires you to properly manage and dispose of. Those same regulations require you to consider the previously discussed waste management hierarchy to prioritise re-use and recycling. By doing so, you can reduce the overall amount of waste which goes to landfill, and increase the sustainability of your development.

What does this mean practically? It means segregating your recyclable waste products like metal, paper, plastic, and so on. It means working out how you can re-use any leftover products on your site, or other sites that you are working on. Most importantly of all, it means considering this from the beginning and incorporating it into your initial design and purchase decisions – turning reduced waste construction into a mindset rather than another box to tick.

Reducing your construction waste and making your projects more sustainable provides massive benefits for both the environment and your development. The earlier you implement solutions, the greater the benefits you can achieve – and all through actions that are easy to implement.

Products like Specwall are perfect alternatives for anyone looking at ways to improve their environmental footprint and reduce waste on their site. To learn more about how Specwall can benefit you, get in touch with our team today. 



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