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Landfills as the Last Resort

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The Australian building industry produces a staggering 20.4 million tons of waste each year through construction and demolition works. Close to a third of this waste goes into landfills across the country while the remaining two-thirds end up being recycled, illegally dumped, reused, reprocessed or stockpiled.

What can we do to improve these statistics as the industry continues to grow? Here are five things to weigh up.

1.Plan with Waste in Mind

Good planning in the early stages can drastically help with construction waste reduction.

Plan your project with sustainability as one of your primary objectives in mind and you’ll be off to a good start. 

A few examples of planning for waste reduction include looking at prefabricated components where possible and ensuring products stored onsite are protected from weather damage. You might even want to look at designing to standard dimensions to reduce the amount of off-cuts you produce.

Lastly, be careful not to over order. Taking the time to carefully calculate material quantities will ensure you won’t need to waste excess materials. You will also save on unnecessary labour costs by not having to remove unnecessary items from the site.

2. Carefully Select Your Waste Disposal Service

Waste disposal services play a crucial role in the reduction of waste. Once you choose a reputable company, discuss the options available specific to your project.

Keep in mind that not all waste disposal services are the same. While all of them will help you remove rubbish from your construction site, only some will have the expertise and equipment to take care of your waste in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.

The right waste disposal service will recycle as much as possible and will dispose of the rest. 

A lot of onsite construction waste presents as mixed loads. Due to the limited available space on building sites, it is often challenging to have systems for the separation of materials. In fact, there is often only one mixed material disposal system or single skip bin on site.

Consideration should be given to the collection contract arrangements and who, if anyone, will determine whether materials can be separated for recovery before disposal to landfill.

3. Use the Green Star Rating Program

Compliance with programs like the Green Star rating usually results in better outcomes with waste management. As early as the tender stage, many projects are seeking systems of material recovery and the use of recycled products. 

Green Star addresses waste minimisation in Operational Waste, Construction and Demolition Waste, and Waste Management. The objective is to encourage projects to be designed, constructed and managed so as to promote best practice in waste management. 

4. Look at Suppliers Using Extended Producer Responsibility EPR

Still making tracks in Australia is the extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiative. Originating in Germany in 1991 as a result of a landfill shortage, the country introduced the German Packaging Ordinance, which made manufacturers responsible for their own packaging waste. They were expected to either take back their packaging from consumers and distributors or pay the national packaging waste management organisation for collection.

Although Australia has no specific EPR regulations in place, we are making progress with similar approaches.

Such initiatives include the national Product Stewardship Act 2011, New South Wales’ Extended Producer Responsibility Priority Statement 2010, and Western Australia’s 2008 Policy Statement on Extended Producer Responsibility.

The Conversation reported that these schemes had provided an impetus for industry engagement in national integrated management of some types of waste, such as e-waste, oil, batteries, and fluorescent lights. Voluntary industry programs also cover materials like PVC, gypsum, waffle pod and carpet.

For instance, since 2002, the Vinyl Council of Australia has voluntarily agreed to apply EPR principles. Armstrong Australia, the world’s largest manufacturer of resilient PVC flooring products, collects the offcuts and end-of-life flooring materials for recycling and processing into a new product. Otherwise, these materials would have been sent to landfill.

5. Make Use of Sustainable Materials

Your choice of materials can help you reduce waste not only during the build but also in the long run. Many different materials can be safely and efficiently reused in future projects, which can further help you reduce your environmental impact. Opting for materials that can be recycled when the building has reached its lifespan is a great option.

Green building materials are typically sourced from sustainable forests. Others are produced from innovative manufacturing processes that reduce harmful emissions to the atmosphere. For instance, concrete and steel are both materials that are now being produced via eco-friendly manufacturing processes. 

It’s time for everyone to get on board with waste management

With a view to a better future, a new plant has opened in Wetherill Park, NSW. It is transforming waste from selected non-recyclable waste streams that would otherwise go into a landfill into a baseload energy source, known as PEF. The Wetherill Park plant is licensed to receive up to 250,000 tonnes per annum of dry commercial and industrial and mixed construction and demolition waste, recovering commodities like metal, clean timber and inert materials, with the balance converted into PEF.

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