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Pulling together

With the Environment Minister, Lord Henley saying recently that the new Coalition Government is keen to see a range of responsibility deals similar to the highly successful Courtauld Commitment for the grocery retail sector, I am pleased to see that his views sit well with industry at large. Moreover, it seems that industry is embracing resource efficiency and beginning to roll out well thought out plans across a range of sectors to make this happen.

Resource efficiency can come in a number of guises. I imagine most businesses will look internally first, not to navel gaze, but to seek benefits under their own roof initially. By reviewing direct outputs such as water efficiency and energy use, and implementing programmes to reduce these, businesses have saved money as well as having a positive impact on the planet. But there is a bigger issue to tackle collectively, the impacts of the waste and by-products from building and redevelopment, and general business waste. Several sectors have begun to work together to create Resource Efficiency Action Plans, known as REPs. These have a critical role to play in the delivery the targets that form responsibility deals and which ultimately will have a positive impact on the environment.

Landfill taxes are pinching, construction companies and industry clients want to tackle their environmental impact, and consumers increasingly care about how their unwanted bulky items are being disposed of. So there is a need for industry to consider what happens to windows which have been thrown away when they have been replaced by new energy efficient double or triple glazed ones. It just isn’t sustainable to throw windows, flooring, old doors and construction packaging into landfill. Most of it has some other use - even if it has ended its present life, it can be recycled or reused and this is where REPs come in.

WRAP, along with Defra, has been working with trade bodies and the flooring, joinery, packaging, plasterboard and window industries to support them with the development of REPs and their subsequent implementation, all tailored to the specific part of the supply chain where they are needed. Because they were developed by industry, they meet their specific needs and are clearly aligned to the targets set out in the Halving Waste to Landfill responsibility deal. They have clearly focussed outcomes which have been turned into practical recommendations, actions and targets. This will mean less waste going to landfill, clearer signposts on where to recycle waste, a value placed on items previously seen as rubbish, and a platform to share good practice and for continued collaboration.

The fact that the initiative has been totally industry led bodes well for the success of these REPs, as they have been driven not by legislation or outside pressure but by the sectors themselves. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Construction Products Association have been strong drivers behind the REPs, further underpinning the joint industry direction.

Recently announced Landfill Targets show that we are, as a nation, are landfilling considerably less than the 2010 target. This is a tremendous achievement, but if we are to use materials efficiently and send zero waste to landfill, we have to embrace a number of collaborative options and together take responsibility which is what these REPs do so succinctly. The flooring industry alone sends in the region of 580,000 tonnes of waste to landfill and less than 2% of flooring waste is being recycled. By 2015 it hopes to be recycling 25% of carpets, a huge step in the right direction.

If you are atBEST/Interbuild on 20 October as part of the Resource Efficiency Day do come to the information hub.  You will be able to see all the Resource Efficiency Action Plans together for the first time and see how they demonstrate the effectiveness of the supply chain working together to resolve their resource efficiency issues.

Marcus Gover is director of market development at WRAP

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