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Leading the way in the war on waste

There is a business case as well a moral obligation for the construction industry to improve its current culture of waste, says Mike Watson

As the largest generator of waste in the UK - some 120 million tonnes this year - the moral obligation for the construction industry to improve its current culture of waste is clear, but it is the business case for change that is beginning to hit home.

With landfill tax on non-inert waste set to double to £48 a tonne over the next three years, and the true cost of waste coming in at up to 15 times the cost of disposal, the industry is fast realising that halving waste to landfill makes good commercial sense - and improved waste management on site is the perfect place to start.

Waste segregation

There can't be many contractors that would ignore the opportunity to save 60 per cent on project waste disposal costs and for Simons Construction, efficient waste segregation has delivered exactly that. Simons achieved cost savings equating to £28 per tonne for waste removal, which rises to £57 per tonne as a result of on site waste segregation.

On-site 60 to 80 per cent of all building materials can be re-used or recycled, delivering significant time and cost savings and diverting waste from landfill.

By re-using demolition materials in construction and excavated waste in landscaping Carillion saved £673,000 on its Farnborough Business Park site in Hampshire.

Wates and Bovis Lend Lease are taking this good practice one step further: Bovis' Project NoWaste delivered 80 per cent recycling rates and a 25 per cent reduction in overall waste generated.

Comparably, Wates' Zero Waste to Landfill commitment has delivered a 30 per cent reduction in waste costs, 37 per cent reduction in waste to landfill and cost savings of £200,000 per year.

Figures like these show not only that halving waste to landfill by 2012 is achievable, but that it makes good business sense.

But the onus is not just on the contractor - clients also have a role in mandating good practice. The Scottish Government, Yorkshire Forward and the John Lewis Partnership are just a few of the organisations that are driving good environmental practice through the entire construction process.

Already, many projects across the UK are outperforming the industry benchmark of a minimum of 10 per cent recycled content by value at no extra cost, and setting reduction and recovery targets for waste which will save money. Good procurement practice need not be a challenge.

WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has a series of resources to help contractors looking to improve their waste culture. These include model procurement wording and a recycled content toolkit as well as good practice guidance.

Industry engagement is growing and as this trend continues, I am confident that halving waste to landfill will be viewed more and more as an integral part of doing business.

Mike Watson is head of construction at WRAP