Waste Elimination : UK: New construction sector strategy prioritises recycling

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The UK construction industry released a series of recommendations to tackle its waste management problem.

The sector is considered the country’s biggest consumer of natural resources, with 400 million tonnes being consumed each year. This generates a yearly 100 million tonnes of waste.

In order to brush off its unfavourable reputation as a resource drainer, the construction industry published a ‘Routemap to Zero Avoidable Waste in Construction’.

The strategy was produced by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), a joint initiative between industry and the government aimed at boosting the sector's sustainability credentials.

In collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), BEIS as well as the Green Construction Board (GCB), the strategy offers guidance to ‘increase efficiency, save carbon and save cost’.

The routemap proposes reuse and recycling of construction materials, the promotion of more sustainable building design as well as of refurbishment over demolition in order to achieve the said objectives. Sending zero waste to landfill by reusing construction materials could reduce carbon emissions by 3,3 million tonnes.

The strategy champions reuse, especially in connection with planned demolitions by 2030 while suggesting audits to identify material that can be used in the next generation of building work. A more widespread adoption of modular construction, which sees components such as walls, floors, roofs, doors and windows already prefabricated and then assembled on site, has equally been identified as a more cost-effective and sustainable construction solution.

CLC co-chair Andy Mitchell - who is the CEO of London's Tideway project, said the routemap "sets a way forward for the industry to reduce the significant amount of waste it creates, and reduce its impact on the environment".

"It will encourage many in the industry to take a fresh approach to what might be seen as a familiar topic, but it's one which we need to see some real changes in," he said. "The CLC supports GCB to help improve our overall resource efficiency, and through the Performance Framework we will be able to demonstrate industry progress on this important topic."

Yet waste reduction in the construction sector ultimately depends on the willingness to move away from established ways of working in the construction industry, a factor the CLC also acknowledges.