Sustainability

Resources, Waste and the Circular Economy

Construction and maintenance of our built environment, our homes, offices, schools, roads, railways etc, uses up the greatest volume of material resources, it also represents the largest waste flows by tonnage though in England and Wales over 90% of this is recovered mainly for use as aggregate.  However, five million tonnes of construction and demolition waste still finds its way to landfill.

At every stage of the construction lifecycle there are different opportunities for different professions to optimise the amount of materials used, to reduce waste and to reuse or recycle products, components and buildings. These opportunities are available to clients, designers, material suppliers, product manufacturers, distributors and construction and demolition contractors.  Reuse and recycling of products may lie within the waste management industry destined for other sectors than construction.

For new buildings, architects and designers can design for durability and future reuse, or for deconstruction and disassembly.  If waste cannot be avoided such as with the demolition of existing buildings then the objective is to follow the principles of the waste hierarchy and to keep products and materials at the highest level, i.e. in descending order of preference: preparing for reuse, recycling or recovery.  Some construction wastes are hazardous, such as asbestos or other legacy wastes, and the waste industry must deal with them according to the regulations.

For manufacturers, reducing waste within their own manufacturing processes is commonplace and is usually a win–win as it reduces costs and increases production capacity.  Once the product leaves the factory and becomes incorporated within a building or structure then its management until end of life becomes subject to the building owner decisions; will refurbishment happen before the end of life of the products, will a functional building be replaced by a more modern, high rise providing greater density.

Difficulties in managing resources for the longer term tend to arise where costs of doing work fall on one part of the supply chain but the benefits are gained by another part, especially where there are several intermediaries.   The built environment is a complex supply chain, so there are usually many intermediaries during a potentially lengthy lifetime of a building or structure.

For more information, please contact Jane Thornback.

 

How much Waste?

Briefing Paper

How Much Waste Is Produced by The Construction Sector?

In the UK, construction and maintenance of our built environment, our homes, offices, schools, roads, railways etc, uses up the greatest volume of material resources and also represents the largest waste flows by tonnage. Though in England and Wales over 90% of this is recovered mainly for use as aggregate. However, five million tonnes of construction and demolition waste still finds its way to landfill.

 

The Waste Hierarchy

What is the Waste Hierarchy?

The waste hierarchy is a framework which has been used in UK policy and legislation since the 1990s. The concept is simple, with waste prevention at the top of the waste hierarchy (the preferred option) and disposal at the bottom (the worst option). In between, in order of preference, is preparing for reuse, recycling and recovery. There are standard definitions within legislation on what constitutes each activity under the waste hierarchy.

A Routemap to Zero Avoidable Waste in Construction

Waste costs the construction industry an estimated £11 billion per annum and emits 3.5 million tonnes of CO2e, yet waste can be reduced, materials used more efficiently, and buildings and structures at end of life repurposed, refurbished or dismantled to enable products and materials to be a resource for new activities.

This Routemap aims to catalyse actions by all parts of the supply chain to reduce and ultimately eliminate all avoidable waste. It adopts the interpretation of Zero Avoidable Waste in construction published by the Green Construction Board (GCB) in 2020 and adopts the principles of the waste hierarchy and life cycle assessment.

The Routemap is an interactive infographic identifying aims, actions, context and guidance. Click on an Aims button and a new page appears. Hover over Context and an explanation appears. Click Guidance and a new page links to published guidance.

It has been prepared by the GCB’s Resources and Waste Task Group with the principal authors being Katherine Adams, Rob Pearce and Jane Thornback. The project received financial support from BEIS, and was in collaboration with Defra.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

Discussion Paper

Applying EPR in the Construction Products Sector

This discussion paper seeks to explore the applicability of the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to construction products - is it applicable to all, to some, or no products at all? And whether any general principles to guide potential application can be identified.

Content coming soon.

Measuring waste in an EPD

Briefing Papers

How is Waste and Recovery reported in an EPD?

This Briefing Paper describes how waste and recovery are reported in Environmental Product Declarations (EPD).

How Is Waste and Recovery Modelled in EPD?

This Briefing Paper describes how waste and recovery are modelled in Environmental Product Declarations (EPD).