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Achieving Zero Waste in construction

Waste continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry, as well as one of the most polarising.

No one would disagree that generating less waste, reusing materials and using more recycled content is a crucial strategy for a sustainable future and long-term economic viability. How we get there continues to be a challenge.

Targets for the reduction of construction waste have previously been criticised for being unachievable, but a project that we’ve recently launched intends to establish if, and how, the construction industry can achieve zero waste to landfill. 

In Wales, targets set by the Welsh government have challenged the industry to make sure that 90 per cent or more of the waste generated by the construction and demolition sectors will be re-used or recycled by 2019/2020.

The latest figures suggest that we’re moving in the right direction, with 87 per cent of waste being recycled in aggregate material terms. However there is still work to do as targets require 90 per cent recycling to be achieved across every material waste stream. 

“There is still work to do as targets require 90 per cent recycling to be achieved across every material waste stream.” 

Constructing Excellence in Wales, on behalf of the Welsh government, has recently launched Enabling Zero Waste, a project that will fuse the construction, demolition and waste management sectors and work with four live construction sites across Wales that will be supported with practical assistance on all aspects of waste management from concept to completion.

This will provide the basis for identifying, managing and documenting each type of waste, the possible options and available solutions, together with finding the root cause.

We’ll be looking to get involved to help construction teams overcome obstacles and provide hard evidence to change perceptions about waste management possibilities and the impact on culture and behaviour.

The chosen schemes represent a range of different waste challenges with a care home, art gallery, primary school and international ice arena being selected for study. 

We’ll be sharing learning outcomes online and via social media throughout the duration of each of the live construction projects and aim to publish a full report towards the end of 2015 on the achievements, solutions and lessons learnt.

In the meantime works continues to address the waste challenge; larger suppliers will continue to apply measures to reduce unnecessary waste, as this costs them money.

Smaller suppliers and contractors will come under increasing pressure to apply the same waste reduction measures. Architects and builders will face calls to design with deconstruction in mind in order to avoid high levels of construction waste in future.

And four construction sites in Wales will be intending to demonstrate that zero waste is achievable through education, collaboration across the supply chain and a real will to demonstrate best practice.

Paul Jennings is director of the Construction Waste programme for Constructing Excellence in Wales

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