How to Sustainably Address Construction Waste

Buildings and the construction sector are responsible for 39% of global carbon dioxide emissions annually.
However, these industries are searching for new approaches that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. When it comes to construction, one of the most significant impacts comes from waste, which goes straight to landfills. In 2017 alone, the sector was responsible for more than 20 million tonnes of debris, such as concrete, metal, timber, asphalt and more.
Despite the staggering statistics, improved approaches to this waste are proving successful. Advanced technology and optimized management software decrease overall refuse in construction and demolition and increase recycling. The result is an optimized supply chain efficiency.
1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
You should apply the standard rules of waste reduction to your construction site before you break ground. By avoiding excess, you decrease the potential for unused debris at the end of the project. You also save money. Contractors or project managers may be able to salvage certain building materials, such as concrete, for future projects.
If the construction company is unable to repurpose materials, there is a considerable market for reduced price items. For example, Habitat for Humanity ReStores all across the world take extra timber, plumbing, windows and more.
2. Implement a Waste Management Plan
One standard way to reduce waste on a construction site is to create a Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP). In addition to reducing debris, proactive plans reduce costs. SWMPs, along with the appropriate software, allows you to manage waste efficiently by setting targets and tracking progress.
Determining which materials are reusable and which can be recycled makes the process more viable. Several different resources are available via public waste systems, which also help when determining which items can be recycled. While some are more obvious, such as concrete and lumber, certain operations can also recycle plastic, carpet, tile and insulation.
3. Use Less Packaging
Evidence suggests that packaging is responsible for 18% of construction waste, utilizing supplies such as plastic, cardboard and wood. By using fewer materials and requesting less from suppliers, you can significantly reduce refuge.
Include packaging requirements in contract documents to ensure future efficiency. Reducing materials minimizes the amount of disposable debris at the end of the project, which can result in cost savings. Plus, less time dealt with waste saves precious hours.
4. Talk with Your Suppliers
Speaking with suppliers about reducing packaging waste is an excellent place to start. If you collaborate with environmentally aware vendors, you improve your chances of efficiency from the outset, as many will buy back unused materials.
Another benefit of discussing waste management with your suppliers is the potential to purchase items later in the project, instead of committing to a set amount at the beginning. Flexibility in supply allows you to save money and cut back on debris when you use fewer materials than initially calculated.
5. Incorporate Sustainable Design
The sustainable building standard is making a significant impact on the construction industry. With environmental building certifications — such as Green Star, BREEAM and NABERS — more developers construct projects in adaptable ways. For instance, demolition is one of the most costly processes in a building’s life cycle. If a property needs de-constructed in the future, it can be expensive to tear down, not to mention a public health hazard if it releases environmental pollutants.
By advocating for sustainable design from inception, buildings can incorporate more eco-friendly materials, produce less toxic debris and be easier to disassemble. With the Green Star certification program, for example, developers ensure they recycle 96% of construction and demolition waste.
Sustainability and the Future of Construction Waste
The construction sector generates a lot of waste, but developers don’t have to relegate themselves to polluting the earth. Instead, adopt some of the sustainability habits above — from recycling leftovers to speaking with suppliers — to make a significant impact.