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Resolution 2014: ‘Look at how we can achieve zero waste’

Charlie Law 28 Jan 2014

One resolution that should be on every contractor’s list for 2014 is to continue to reduce construction waste.

The latest Green Construction Board Waste Report for 2011 (which has only just been published even though the date on the report is June 2013) shows that of the 80 million plus tonnes of waste estimated to have been produced by the construction industry, almost 85% was beneficially reused, recycled, or sent for energy recovery.

Although this is good progress, 13 million tonnes of construction waste was still sent to landfill, including almost 10 million tonnes of soil and stones which was not able to be beneficially reused elsewhere. So how can we reduce this even more, and is it possible to get to a situation where zero waste is produced?

At BAM, we believe the best way to tackle construction waste is to become more resource efficient by designing and managing waste out at source. This means designing buildings in a way that ensures they use the minimum amount of resources during construction and also over their lifetime. It also means looking at how materials are delivered to site to reduce packaging waste, as well as how we manage the build process to reduce waste from damaged materials and any temporary works.

By introducing these principles, BAM has reduced its construction waste production by a third over the last six years to 139m³/£m, and in 2012 we diverted 91% of waste away from landfill. As we compile our figures for 2013, we’re already looking at new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste we produce, with the key focus on designing it out. But on our own we will never achieve zero waste.


To achieve zero construction waste, all strands of the industry (clients, designers, materials manufacturers, principal contractors, trade contractors, and the regulators) need to work together to achieve the most resource efficient solutions.

We also need to reassess our stance on what is currently legally classed as waste by regulators, as in many cases this is in fact useful raw material. For example soils can be reused on other sites for raising levels, or to restore quarries. Steel and other metals are already widely recovered and upcycled into new products, but are rarely reused in their original form. Other materials such as timber and mixtures of concrete and brick are generally downcycled into wood panel products or aggregates.

We therefore need to work on ensuring more ‘waste’ materials are reused in their original form, and where they cannot, ensure they are upcycled rather than downcycled. These are the beginnings of a more circular economy where nothing is actually wasted, and nothing is sent to landfill. A great resolution indeed.



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