Zero avoidable waste in construction

20th September 2021
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Zero avoidable waste in construction

We’re facing a significant waste problem. In 2018, the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy outlined that it wanted to eliminate avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050 in England to reduce our impact on the environment across all sectors. But what does it mean and how does it apply to the construction industry? 

Zero avoidable waste in construction means preventing waste being generated at each stage of a project’s life cycle. Right from the manufacture of the building through to the assembly and deconstruction. At the end of the project’s life cycle, all materials and components should also be either reused or recycled to ensure minimal environmental impact.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities throughout the UK. The department is responsible for government policy in these areas and is part of the team working to eliminate waste by 2050. 

From data collated by Defra in 2016 to inform the policy, it found that around 250 million tonnes of non-metallic mineral ores were consumed domestically. Most likely to be used in construction both in buildings and infrastructure. It also estimated that around 120 million tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste was produced in 2016 with nearly five million tonnes of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste was landfilled in 2016. 

These figures are startling and only set to grow unless things change. The construction industry is one area where businesses could be more conscious about their waste and where it goes. One of the benefits of modular and offsite construction is that waste is reduced, most companies will only order the materials they need for each project which ultimately results in less waste. The materials used in modular can also be recycled too or reused in another building once taken down, timber for example. 

Some companies are already meeting zero waste requirements but we all need to be doing more. As discussed in our blog on Monday, we highlighted that a circular economy could be a great solution. This prioritises the reuse and recycling of products and resources to eliminate waste and keep it circulating. Most products can be taken and either used in another location or broken down and used in future builds, it’s just about ensuring it’s planned in from the initial design stages. It also means that we need to be more aware of the materials we’re using and where they’re ending up. Do you think we can meet the government’s zero avoidable waste 2050 target?

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