The Construction Industry Accounts For Hazardous Waste Construction Essay

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1. Abstract.

The construction industry accounts for 32% of all hazardous waste produced in the UK annually. As the construction industry has a major impact on the environment, the Government has implemented the Strategy for Sustainable Construction', with a target of halving waste to landfill by 2012. In order to achieve this target, the Government has put measures in place to lower this figure, such as increasing Landfill Tax, increasing associated penalties to tackle fly-tipping, as well as ensuring SWMP's for projects over £300,000 are compulsory and the implementation of the plasterboard agreement. SWMP's are compliant with the Waste Hierarchy of eliminate, reduce, re-use, recycle and disposal.

2. Introduction.

According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the construction industry accounts for 32% of all hazardous waste produced in the UK, which amounts to 1.7 million tonnes every year. (DEFRA, 2007)

(Source: DEFRA, 2007)

Figure 1.1 - Annual Waste Arisings, England - By Sector.

Therefore, the construction industry has a major bearing on the environment. A survey carried out by Capita Symonds Ltd. (2007) stated that out of 90 million tonnes of inert waste produced, only half is reprocessed into aggregates, so adequate resources are being taken to landfill when they could be used elsewhere in areas such as backfilling and landscaping.

3. Strategy for Sustainable Construction.

Launched on 11th June 2008, the Government has produced a strategy to prevent further impact to key areas of the construction industry and the natural environment. (Reisner, 2008) This is called the "Strategy for Sustainable Construction".

In terms of waste, the Government has set an overarching target of "reducing the amount of construction, demolition and excavation (CD&E) waste to landfill by 50% by 2012". (BERR, 2008) This target will be achieved through the mandatory implementation of Site Waste Management Plans to all projects over £300,000, enabling wastes to be either eliminated, reduced, reused and/or recycled, meaning minimal amounts of wastes need to be disposed of at landfill. (DEFRA, 2008)

4. Site Waste Management Plan.

New regulations came into force in April 2008, meaning that any construction project in England costing over £300k needs a Site Waste Management Plan, regardless of project type. (SMART Waste, 2008)

SWMP's are project specific, and set out how building materials and resulting waste is to be managed. Its purpose is to ensure that all materials are managed effectively, that waste is disposed of legally and material recycling, reuse and recovery is maximised, thus ensuring efficiency of resources is optimized. (Halliday, 2007)

The plan identifies the different wastes that are produced at specified stages of the project. This enables the specification of materials, size and quantity to be identified so that the method of re-use, recycle or disposal can be determined. (NetRegs, 2008) Adopting an SWMP helped Knox & Wells to measure the cost of waste more accurately, start benchmarking and identify simple saving measures, helping them achieve an overall cost saving of £4,150 on their Cardiff project.

5. Eliminate.

It is essential that any risk of waste arising from the project can be eliminated from the outset. Recent research by WRAP has identified that designers can make a real difference in eliminating this waste, by considering how their design decisions influence the materials used and waste created. (WRAP, 2009)

Every day, across the United Kingdom, skips are being filled on-site as part of daily operations. The average cost of the waste in a site skip is between £1,300 and £1,600, which represents 10 million tonnes of construction products being wasted every year. It is estimated that this costs the industry in excess of £1.5bn annually. If only 1% of this could have been avoided last year, it would have saved 104,000 tonnes of product, equivalent to £15m in value. (Environment Agency, 2008)

6. Reduce.

If the risk of waste arising from construction, demolition and/or excavation cannot be eliminated from the outset, it is vital that appropriate measures are in place to reduce it.

Firstly, it is essential that measurements indicated in the designs are correct so that the quantity surveyor can accurately price the materials required for each item of work. Fit for purpose auditing processes and precise cross-checking of tender documents can help reduce the risk of wastage. Current figures indicate that over-ordering accounts for 13 million tonnes of new building materials being thrown away every year. (Sustainable Build, 2010) Just-in-time delivery and off-site prefabrication can further reduce waste due to strict quality control measures, eliminating damage through poor storage and bad weather. (Edwards, 2005) The addition of the voluntary plasterboard agreement aims to significantly reduce the amount of waste arising from plasterboard production and use.

7. Re-use.

According to Sustainable Build (2010), the best method of managing the waste produced on a construction site is through reuse on the existing site, or nearby site in the area.

For example, soils can be used as a sub-soil for landscaping, and rubble can be processed into aggregates and used on roads. Surplus masonry material can be crushed on-site and reused in driveways. Some items of demolition waste can be salvaged, collected and reused on the existing project. The same is true for renovation projects, where the reclaimed materials can be sold to offset the costs of the project. (Hurley et al. 2001)

Tube Lines Escalator Services achieved annual cost savings of £75,000 by introducing new measures to boost the re-use and recycling of different wastes, improving resource efficiency.

8. Recycle.

Almost all construction, demolition and excavation waste is capable of being recycled. Providing the waste is segregated and separated on-site for easy storage, the recycled materials can then be used for landscaping and backfilling, as well as in other sectors, such infrastructure, etc. (Atkins, 2009)

The implementation of Site Waste Management Plan regulations, and the rise in the Landfill Tax Levy should directly contribute to the increase in the rate of recycling. With extra costs also being bought in by the Landfill Directive, these overheads should encourage contractors to segregate their waste on-site, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, thus increasing company profits. (WRAP, 2006)

Current figures show that over 50m tonnes of resources were recycled in 2008. (BRE, 2008) In 2004/05, Waitrose Lichfield achieved an actual recycled content of 12%, ahead of the 11% target for large projects.

9. Dispose.

As a skip full of waste is a skip full of money, it is vital that realistic targets are set as to how much waste is going to be disposed of, so the quantity of components retained is maximised. (RICS, 2009) Therefore, the amount of waste being disposed at landfill should be minimal, generating cost savings for the contractor, and protecting the environment for the future.

Under SWMP Regulations 2008, all contractors have a duty to ensure that all waste to be disposed of is done so in a legal and responsible way. If contractors do not comply, there are fixed penalties in place to reduce the risk of fly-tipping, which costs the local authorities £74m annually. They also have a responsibility to ensure that all parties involved in transporting, handling and disposing their waste are registered with the environmental regulator, and all relevant documentation, like Waste Transfer Notes and Consignment Notes are retained for audit. (NetRegs, 2008)

10. Discussion.

Since the launch of the Strategy for Sustainable Construction, the industry has saw an increase in the awareness of sustainability as construction companies have became more conscious of the impact they are having on the environment. The overarching targets stated in the report, as well as the objectives set to achieve them, challenge the industry to tackle the environmental problem by revising their business strategy to minimize their overall impact upon the planet. (BERR, 2008)

Managing and monitoring waste on a construction site requires a detailed waste minimisation strategy. Preventing waste going to landfill needs careful planning throughout the design, build and occupancy phases to ensure its success, effectiveness and compliance with the Building Regulations, and other relevant legislation. (Sustainable Build, 2010) Architects can design out waste by using components of standard size, and specifying materials that can be used through re-use, recycle or reclamation.

Pre-demolition audits must also be carried out to determine the key demolition products so recommendations for future use can be established. The purpose of these audits is to maximize materials available for reuse and recycling, essentially minimising materials going to landfill. Ultimately, waste minimisation and awareness saves money and helps protect the environment for future generations. (BRE, 2009) Contractors can also sign up to the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, where the waste produced by one company can be brought and reused by another.

11. Conclusion.

The Government has set overarching targets in its Strategy for Sustainable Construction that all organisations in the industry must comply with. To enable these targets to be met, those concerned must follow the list of actions and deliverables that contribute to achieving the targets set. (BERR, 2008)