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Waste reduction requires team effort

How waste can be reduced on a practical scale. By Sean Lockie

To encourage industry, the Government has introduced increases in the standard rate of landfill tax by £8 per tonne each year until 2013. The tax will reach £48 for each tonne of waste sent to landfill from 1 April next year, climbing to £72 in 2013.

And an increasing number of clients, particularly within the public sector, are asking contractors to deliver to waste reduction targets. The Sustainable Targets for Operation of Government Estate (SOGE) state that departments should reduce waste arisings by 5 per cent by 2010, relative to 2004/2005 levels, going up to 25 per cent by 2020. 

The developer’s role

The Sustainable Construction Strategy targets zero net waste (a balance of waste from a development against its recycled content) at construction site level by 2015, halving the amount of construction waste produced and zero waste to landfill by 2020. Developers also need to consider the existing target of reducing construction packaging waste by 20 per cent as set out by the Construction Products Association.

Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP) are now mandatory on projects with a value of £300,000 and above. Developing SWMP targets and using waste management tools (for example NetWaste, SmartStart) can help reduce waste from the initial stages. Developers should also look at reuse materials on site where possible, particularly aggregates and timber.

How the design team can help

Work done by WRAP (Waste Resource Action Programme), Envirowise, contractors and the BRE has shown that reducing waste being produced has a far greater impact on amount taken to landfill than improving on-site management of waste. The best opportunities to reduce materials use and waste occur during the earliest stages of the construction process.

Designers should specify recycled content where feasible in building products. And they can reduce the amount of material used by stipulating lighter building elements to lower the weight of floor slabs and consequentially supporting structure and foundations.

What contractors can do

Waste materials should ideally be divided between a number of dedicated skips. The Institution of Civil Engineers has developed a colour coding scheme in collaboration with the Construction Confederation and the Scottish Waste Awareness Group (SWAG) to help raise waste awareness, improving waste separation, reducing landfill and providing cost savings.

Annual rises in landfill tax means that segregation for waste minimisation and recycling are not just a green option; they make economic sense.

Sean Lockie is director and head of sustainability at Faithful+Gould

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