Whether you’re managing a small DIY project, or you’re the manager of a large-scale building site, construction waste needs to be managed properly.
The construction industry has long been a serious problem for the environment and government agencies are dedicating more and more resources to enforcing regulations.
According to Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the construction industry is responsible for almost a third (62%) of total UK waste. That’s a whopping 66.2 million tonnes of C&D waste (construction and demolition waste) that environmental officers are keeping a much closer eye on.
But there are far more benefits to having a solid plan for managing your construction waste than just staying on the right side of the law, including huge savings and lucrative business opportunities…
The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 state that all construction waste must be managed according to the waste management hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle and dispose).
While the UK produces a lot of debris, the nation has a high recovery rate of 93% for this waste type, which seriously lightens the load on struggling landfills.
Doors or decorative items can be reused in other buildings, building rubble can be recycled into concrete, and unused materials can be saved for future projects or sold. Soil disposal is a particularly tricky business as it needs to be sorted into a single waste stream to keep it from being contaminated, but can be easily reused in landscaping projects.
Properly sorting your waste will actually work out cheaper as landfill taxes continue to rise. In fact, construction businesses can save as much as 15% of waste management costs simply by making a detailed assessment of how to minimise the amount of waste produced.
Plus, government-funded projects will always favour companies that have demonstrated good waste management practices, so you’ll also be broadening your business horizons.
In short, the more construction companies protect the planet, the easier it’ll be on their bank balance.
To keep your construction site operating smoothly, you’ll need to make a full assessment of the amount of construction waste that will be generated and how to keep it flowing offsite using as little transport as possible to lower your carbon footprint.
For larger construction projects, you might decide that onsite waste management is the best option so waste can be sorted, compacted and expertly managed before it’s transported away.
Consider a waste management service that is environmentally conscious and will properly evaluate how construction waste can be reduced, reused or recycled. SunSkips offers 20- and even 40-yard roll-on/off skips, as well as eight-yard builders’ skips for heavy material like rubble, any of which can be hired for long-term construction projects.
Waste types fall into four main categories: hazardous, non-hazardous, degradable, and non-degradable.
The most common type of construction waste is non-hazardous rubble made up of bricks and concrete, but also includes wood, glass, tiles, plastic, metal, cement, and soil.
Complex projects might force you to deal with hazardous materials like asbestos, insulation, paint, adhesives, varnishes and tar. This will require expert disposal and you’ll need to hire an experienced waste management service to handle it.
For complex construction sites, it’s important to get a full audit on the different types of construction waste you’ll be generating to prevent waste streams that can be recycled from being contaminated.
Site managers need to make sure their construction waste is kept in good order to avoid unwanted visits from government inspectors.
Any waste being transported off the premises must be properly classified according to regulations. This includes the correct code to identify the waste type, whether or not it’s hazardous, where it came from, how it was generated, and any other information to help correctly dispose of it.
This information must be recorded on a waste transfer note, which can either be submitted online or printed out (you must keep a copy of it for two years).
Additionally, workers managing waste must be registered with the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).
And while it isn’t a legal requirement anymore, you should get a site waste management plan (SWMP) drawn up. This helps you work with a clear plan for how your construction site will minimise waste and includes details of waste types, lays out options for recycling and reuse, includes your waste management company info, and shows calculations for the savings that your strategy can achieve.
Environmental officer Mirela Andreescu says the agency is stepping up its game to ensure construction workers comply with waste management regulations, even going so far as stopping vehicles leaving sites to check they have the right paperwork for any waste they are transporting.
She said, “Every builder and developer that does the right thing with their construction and demolition waste is helping to protect our environment for future generations. That’s more important now than ever before.”
Of course, there are general waste management regulations to follow as well. Check that your waste management firm has a waste carrier licence before you give them the green light as failure to do this could land you with a hefty fine that would likely send your project over budget.
And if you can’t place skips on the construction site and need to keep it on public land (on the street, for example) you’ll need to get a permit from the local authorities. SunSkips can take care of this paperwork for you.
On top of keeping your site green, tidy and above board, you need to consider the well-being of the people working with the waste.
Make sure workers handling construction waste understand the dangers. Anyone handling heavy waste like concrete should wear steel toe cap boots and gloves, and those that are handling hazardous materials must undergo proper health and safety training.
If you need to keep skips onsite, make sure they are positioned for easy collection and aren’t blocking any access areas.
Those planning to keep flammable material like packaging and wood in onsite skips should request a container with a lockable lid and have it regularly collected from the site to minimise fire risks.
Construction waste that can’t be reused or recycled is sent to environmentally unfriendly landfill sites.
But innovations in construction materials means that having to deal with concrete and bricks polluting the planet could soon be a thing of the past.
US company Biomason is working hard on a type of brick made from sand and bacteria, rather than energy-intensive kilns. Meanwhile, boffins at the Rice University in Texas have come up with a way to control how concrete sets, making the molecular structure so strong that building projects will need less of it – and it can even prevent steel embedded in it from rusting. Organic material experts are even looking into methods of using mushrooms and banana plants to make biodegradable bricks.
But while we wait for future technologies to start making a dent in the astronomical amount of waste produced by the construction industry, we need to find more practical ways of reducing it…
The easiest way to manage construction waste is to not create it in the first place. Here’s some advice on how to save costs and labour with your construction waste management:
If you’re struggling to manage your construction waste efficiently, give the professionals a call on 01449 360 033. SunSkips is experienced in handling all kinds of construction waste. Let us evaluate your requirements so we can offer the best and most cost-effective solution.