Managing Waste In Uk Construction Industry Construction Essay

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The construction industry plays a leading role in improving the quality of the built environment, but its activities also impact on the wider environment in a number of ways, including waste (Osmani, 2007). The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) report that the construction industry is responsible for 120 million tonnes of construction waste every year (WRAP, 2009). In 2008, 25 million tonnes of this construction waste was sent straight to landfill in the United Kingdom, an equivalent to 118 tonnes per £1 million contractors output or 10% of the total construction, demolition and excavation waste created (Adams, 2010). To support these statements, McGarth and Anderson's research (2008) report that wastage rates in the industry may be as high as 10 - 15%, 40% of which from the manufacture of products and 60% from onsite activities.

As the rate of construction within the UK is set to increase due to higher levels of demand, and targets set by the Government requiring a 50% reduction in landfill waste by 2012 (BERR, 2008) there is increasing pressure to reduce waste at all stages of building projects and consider the long term impacts of design and construction on waste management. It is believed that current wastage rates, combined with waste created from other sectors, such as residential housing, UK landfill sites will be filled in as little as 6 years. (BERR, 2008). However, it is important to consider, not just the environmental factors but also the economic drivers; the Local Government Association (LGA) claim that, with the UK landfilling 57% of its municipal waste, councils spend £620 million each year on Landfill Tax at its current rate of £40 per tonne (increasing to £48 per tonne in 2010/11), but if the country and its councils were to improve its performance to match European countries such as Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, who landfills between 1-5% of its municipal waste, could result in a saving of £609 million each year (EEA, 2009. LetsRecycle, 2009).

Purpose of this Dissertation:

Research Question:

Aims and Objectives:

To assess the impacts of waste and compare these against European figures.

To assess and evaluate active methods of waste management with the construction industry.

To assess the attitudes of sub-contractors, contractors and designers towards waste management.


Chapter Two



Literature Review:






Reliability and Validity:

Chapter Three


Defining the Problem of Waste:

For much of the construction industry there is a notion that waste is simply any material or debris that is removed from site and disposed of in landfill. The reason for this narrow view is possibly due to the ease in which it can be seen and measured (Formoso et al, 2002).

Effect of waste on companies.. e.g. waste can be turned into profit etc

Waste management part of sustainability

Attitudes towards prefabrication

Access to site/space for storage etc

Waste - A Legal Definition

The Environmental Protection Act 1990, introduced to control pollution from commercial and other activities in the UK, defines waste as:

"a) any substance which constitutes a scrap material or an effluent or other unwanted surplus substance arising from the application of any process" and

"b) any substance or article which requires to be disposed of as being broken, worn out, contaminated or otherwise spoiled" (Choongh and Grekos. 2006).

This legal definition was amended by the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 which stated that waste is to be classed as 'any substance or object which the producer or the person in possession of it, discards or intends or is required to discard but with exception of anything excluded from the scope of the EPA (Environmental Protection Act 1990)‟. This amendment gives the responsible for the final and safe disposal of waste materials to the producer. Imposing a Duty of Care for responsibility of proper and legal disposal, with respect to waste, on any person who imports, produces, carries, treats or disposes of waste (Environmental Protection Act, 1990 cited by CIRIA, 1995). However, whether or not a substance is classified as waste must be determined by assessing if the substance or object is no longer part of the normal commercial cycle or chain of utility (Winter, 2006). If it is not then the substance or object should not be classified as waste. The word "discard" has a special meaning in this case; even if material is sent for recycling or undergoes treatment on site, it can still be waste (DTI, 2004).

Waste Hierarchy

Given that the producer must now accept responsibility for its waste in accordance to the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994; there are four main approaches to waste management: minimisation/reduction, reuse, recycling, disposal (in the form of landfill and incineration). Composting is also an option but is rarely applicable within the construction industry (CIOB, 1995). However, for these approaches to be effective it is essential that detailed information on waste types and quantities are made available. If not, economic solutions will be difficult to establish and contractors will run the risk of falling foul to environmental legislation.

The production, management and disposal of waste are widely assessed using the "waste hierarchy" (Figure. 1). The waste hierarchy was first introduced in 1975 as part of the Waste Framework Directive 1975 and has been adapted to become a concept of the more recent UK Waste Management Strategy 2000. The hierarchy assesses waste on this five point scale; reduce, reuse, recycle, energy recovery and disposal.

Figure .

Cost savings are influenced by the level of waste management taken upon by the contractor; the higher the method on the chart, the greater the cash saving. Indicating that reduction/minimisation would be most beneficial. In general terms, the hierarchy argues that most waste could and should be reduced, so that the need for other options, such as re-use, recycling and disposal would be greatly reduced. Thus it is argued, if the construction industry was to implement the hierarchy effectively, a far smaller amount of waste would need to be disposed of after all the previous stages had been put into practice.

The waste hierarchy has, in practice, been inadequate and not fit for purpose. The hierarchy was introduced, principally, to reduce the amount of waste that is created. However, figures indicate that both household waste (the main focus of the hierarchy) and also construction waste have not decreased significantly: Household waste increasing by 0.1million tonnes and 8.1 tonnes respectively between 2002 and 2008 (Defra, 2008 [], WRAP, 2009). Sassi, (2004), Sarja, (2002) and Coventry et al, (2001) also found that the re-use of materials are not widely practised in the UK: stating that architects believe it increases the risk of projects due to guaranteed standard uncertainties and lack of knowledge; leading to the belief that it is cheaper to replace than to repair or renovate.

How can hierarchy be improved..

Waste Reduction and Minimisation

Past research into the causes of waste in construction projects indicates that waste can arise throughout a project; from inception right through to the management and operation of a building (Teo & Loosemore, 2008). According to McDonald and Smithers, (1998) there are two principal ways in which construction waste can be reduced; by minimising the amount of waste generated through source reduction, or by improving the management of the waste produced on site.

Waste minimisation and reduction are, simply, the methods of reducing the quantity of unwanted materials arising and requiring processing and/or disposal (McDonald and Smithers, 1998) or 'the reduction of waste at source, by understanding and changing processes to reduce and prevent waste' (The Environment Agency, 2001 p.7). The priority of waste minimisation is not producing waste in the first place. This requires the reduction of waste at its origin, this may mean at the design stage by understanding the root cause of waste and re-engineering current processes and practices to decrease waste generation.

Innes (2004), however, estimated that 33% of construction materials sent to landfill arise because the architects fail to design out waste, stating that this is due to the complexity of projects and the range of materials available. Poon et al (2004), who conducted a survey of 250 building designers, furthered this finding; discovering that potential to reduce waste was ranked last among building designers when selecting building materials. According to Teo & Loosemore (2008) the management of construction waste is difficult due to the "unique nature of each project, the hostility and unpredictability of the production environment, the fragmented nature of the project organisations use to produce buildings, and the intense cost and time pressures that characterise many construction problems" (Teo & Loosemore, 2008 p.742). The benefits, however, are becoming increasingly recognised due to the reduced costs of disposal, transportation and raw materials and especially as CIRIA (1995) estimated that wasteful companies can be at a 10% disadvantage in tendering for new work; this disadvantage is likely to only increase as the issue becomes more topical and important to clients.

There are practical limits to waste minimisation, especially in regard to source reduction. For example, it may be difficult to manufacture certain goods without generating hazardous waste, such as the toxic waste which results from chemical reactions (Formoso et al, 2002). There may be concern that modifications to the process or the material inputs may result in a lower quality product which will be harder to market. While not strictly a technical barrier, this fear could still impede innovation. A genuine technical barrier may be a lack of suitable engineering and technical information on source reduction techniques.

Designing out waste at the earliest stages of the construction process offers the greatest opportunities for waste reduction. Management of waste, on the other hand, is the process of dealing with waste once it has arisen through on-site techniques such as site planning, segregation and transportation (Osmani et al, 2006). To be most effective the waste implications of a proposal need to be considered at the earliest possible stage…….

Government Strategies

The key drivers for waste reduction and minimisation in construction can be summarised into four main groups; environmental, industry and economic concerns in addition to Governmental policies and regulation (Osmani et al, 2006). The main environmental concern in the construction industry is the use of materials, it uses 420 million tonnes per year; consuming 40% of materials of the world's economy and 75% of the world's timber but 10-30% of this waste ends up in landfill sites (Fishbein, 1998, Knight, 2003).

The Landfill Tax

The Landfill Tax was introduced in 1996 in attempt to encourage alternative means of waste disposal, such as recycling, by reflecting the environmental costs of landfill use more accurately in its price. Landfill Tax operates at two rates: a standard rate for active waste (substances that either decay or contaminate land - which includes household waste); and a lower rate for inert materials. The rates for 2010/11 are £48 per tonne (+VAT) for active waste and £2.50 per tonne (+VAT) for inactive waste (Anon, 2005 []). Materials qualifying for the lower rate are listed in the Schedule to the Landfill Tax (Qualifying Material) Order 1996 and include materials such as rocks, soils and concrete (HMRC, 2009). Since 2007 the tax has been subject to an escalating price increase of £8 per tonne each year for standard waste and is set to continue until its review in 2013; when the cost will be £72 per tonne (Figure. 2).

Date of change

Standard rate (£ per tonne)

Lower rate (£ per tonne)

















































Figure 2. The rate of tax since the introduction of the tax in October 1996 (HMRC, 2009)

The idea behind the tax was to promote and encourage disposing of waste by means other than landfill. This however, has come with adverse effects: it has been alleged that the tax has led to an increase in fly-tipping and the use of unlicensed waste disposal sites as waste producers are unwilling to incur the extra cost of disposing of waste (Anon, 2005 []). In addition, ACBE (2001) found that, despite tax increases, the Landfill Tax had not led to a reduction in waste arisings since its inception. On the other hand, ECOTEC (1998) found that the legislation increased commitments of businesses towards recycling, reuse and waste minimisation, stating that it has had a profound effect upon business behaviour. HMC&E (1998) highlighted the limitations of the tax, relating findings to those of Denmark where a 225% rise in landfill tax resulted in a 15% reduction of waste, demonstrating a low elasticity (Sedee et al, 2000).

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) works with businesses, consumers and local councils to reduce waste and recycle more in all sectors. Created by Government in 2000 as part of England's Waste Strategy, WRAP aims to increase resource efficiency. It has the focus of helping the industry meet the Government's proposed target of halving the amount of construction, demolition and excavation waste sent to landfill by 2012 (WRAP, 2010). All parts of the supply chain - clients, contractors, designers and consultants, manufacturers, waste management companies - have a role to play in the industry as a whole in achieving this target. Many organisations are already taking a lead, particularly many major clients and contractors, as the business benefits from taking action are numerous and compelling. For example, Balfour Beatty, one of largest construction contractors in the UK, highlights the benefits of good waste management stating that: "Avoiding waste going to landfill brings us operational cost savings as well as environmental benefits. It can differentiate us in the marketplace, help us deliver lower cost projects and meet customers' desire for lower environmental impacts." (Balfour Beatty, 2009 p.56). Furthermore, stating that this has an effect on members of its supply chain and outsourced sub-contractors. However, as yet, despite contractors knowledge of benefits, the Landfill Tax does not appear to have significantly reduced the amount of waste production. The Government in the UK should, therefore, introduce further fiscal measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of construction and demolition activities.

Site Waste Management Plans

In 2005 the Government published the Clean Neighbourhood and Environmental Act (2005) which included the enforcement of Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs). As of April 2008 it became a legal requirement for all construction projects in England valued at over £300,000 to have a SWMP, with a more detailed plan required for projects over £500,000 (SMARTwaste. 2008). Therefore these management plans represent a core part in developing and assessing a sites attitude towards waste.

The notion of "Good Practice" is frequently mentioned within the construction industry; it is the action of a party going beyond minimum legal requirements and creating higher targets for themselves. This is particularly applicable within the creation of SWMPs; many contractors have gone far beyond legal compliance and benefit from improved resource efficiency. However, others do the bare minimum to comply and are possibly not extracting much value out of the SWMP process. One criticism often stated relates to the project value limit and the SWMP duel role in promoting resource efficiency and reducing fly tipping, where it is felt that most fly tipping of construction waste is from projects falling below the project value threshold of £300,000 (CRW, 2010). A few planning authorities are requiring evidence of a SWMP as part of the approval process. However, there is no consistent approach to ensuring SWMPs are completed for all projects over £300,000 in value and therefore, there is no assurance that SWMPs are being used effectively.

BRE advise that successful SWMP's will help companies to reduce waste, save money, increase productivity on-site, reduce health and safety risks and aid companies in demonstrate how they are managing their environmental performance to create a better public image (BRE, 2008). However, SWMPs have been criticised for being too complex. Price (2008) outlines that the SWMPs legislation cannot effectively reduce waste as a waste management process is not a statutory obligation to the designer, who according to Innes (2004) is responsible for 33% of waste sent to landfill. Price (2008) suggests the integration of the SWMP 2008 Legislation with CDM 2007 which controls health and safety responsibilities on site. Adoption of this proposal could prove to reduce health and safety risks to all parties and ensure that SWMPs are adopted throughout the whole life cycle of a construction project, not just at the planning stage.

Lean Management

Material waste, such as waste created by damage, surplus or incorrect specification, are a major contributor to overall waste levels, and very important in assessing waste's effect on the environment. Taylor (1913), however, highlights the importance of waste in the form of unused human talent stating that waste in the form of human inefficiency outweighs that of waste material but unlike material waste is much more complicated to measure. Ford (1927, cited by Formoso et al, 2002) also suggested that human work should be the focus of waste prevention, as the value of materials depends largely on the work that has been spent on them.

The Egan report found that more than a third of major clients are dissatisfied with contractors' performance (Egan, 1998). It is widely recognised that in construction, projects are regularly overdue, come in above cost and not to the correct specification. Saunders and Wynn (2004) found that 71% of sub-contractors believed a wastage level of 10% was acceptable; project managers have almost come to expect this and build these errors in to cost estimates. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) stated that clients' believe that sticking to price, resolving defects, providing a reliable service and providing value for money was a real issue. "The clients' dissatisfaction is due to the fact that over 50% of construction projects suffer from delays and over-spending and more than 30% of the completed projects have quality defects; further to this 30% of construction is re-work" (EPSRC, 2005, p. 6).

The Lean Thinking approach introduces a unique method of advancing work from one process to another (Ballard and Howell, 1995). Its objective is maximising value and minimising waste. Allen (2000) defines lean manufacturing as a systems approach where each phase builds upon the previous one, anchoring the system as a whole. "Leadership, technical components and value adding activities must be balanced, blended and synchronised" (Allen, 2000 p.54). Construction works are scheduled in a manner of a supply chain and waste is eliminated from the whole value stream.

Ohno (1988) divides the "movements" (operations) of workers into waste and work. Waste adds unnecessary value to a project and therefore, is not a necessary process. Ohno (1988) identifies seven categories of waste that were apparent in the original lean thinking production system:

"1) Unnecessary movement of people, including waste of human energy;

2) Waiting by employees for process equipment to finish its work or an upstream activity;

3) Defects in products;

4) Overproduction of goods not needed;

5) Inventories of goods awaiting further processing or consumption;

6) Unnecessary processing; and

7) Unnecessary transport of goods." (Formoso et al, 2002)

The first two categories are related to operations work by people, while the last five refer to the flow of materials process (Formoso et al, 2002). Waste of materials is not emphasised within Lean Production literature,

Many different terms are used to describe the various waste minimisation techniques; the focus however, with this research is on 'source reduction' techniques opposed to 'release reduction' techniques. Release reductions often involve activities dealing with pollution after its generation. Waste minimisation delivers clear economic benefits, such as reduced cost of raw materials, energy and water, reduced storage and handling and ultimately; waste disposal. In addition, there may be increased revenue from the re-use, recycling or sale of waste materials, and improved production efficiency (Formoso et al, 2002). Waste minimisation also delivers clear environmental benefits and reduced risks to public health because of the reduction in hazardous wastes discharged to air, water and land.

SWMPs are also designed to make it easier for the project team to assess the amount of waste produced on both previous and current projects, and to allow an easy method of benchmarking through the use of KPIs.

Current Situation (Consequences of bad practice etc):

"I recognise the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us." (Roosevelt, 1910)

The most obvious impacts of generating waste are assessed as land use and landfill consumption. The number of landfills in the UK has decreased from 1,889 in 1994 (U.S. EPA 1998) to 1,367 in 2009 (Waste Management Journal 2009), or 28% in 15 years. Less obvious are the negative environmental impacts of wasting and replacing building materials. Production of new materials involves the further depletion of resources, the impacts of manufacturing processes (energy use, water and air emissions and waste), and the impacts of product transportation (fuel consumption and vehicle emissions).

McDonough and Braungart (1992) developed the Hannover Principles, for the City of Hannover, Germany's Expo 2000, which include the following:

"Accept the responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human wellbeing, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist," and.

"Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste."



Research Methodology:

Data Collection will enable this study to formulate and test working assumptions about an existing study or publication and develop information that will lead to the improvement of the key quality characteristics of the text or figures. Data Collection will aid decision making by focusing the dissertation on objective information about what is happening in the field, rather than subjective opinions.

The techniques of data collection fall into two categories based on whether the data being gathered are quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative methods (e.g. experiments, questionnaires and psychometric tests) provide information which is easy to analyse statistically and fairly reliable.  Qualitative methods are ways of collecting data which are concerned with describing meaning, rather than with drawing statistical inferences.  Qualitative methods will be used in the research to provide a more in-depth analysis of the topics and quantitative methods used to compare and display statistically data collected in the primary research.

Primary Research:

Secondary Research

How is Waste Managed?: