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Sustainable partners

Increasing numbers of construction companies are signing up to WRAP’s commitment to halving waste to landfill. Coupled with the legislative requirement for projects over £500,000 to have Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) in place, there is the opportunity for recycling companies to become key partners to the sector.

The past five years have seen a real shift in how the construction industry views waste. With around 120 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste being generated each year, ensuring that it is handled sustainably is becoming more prevalent.

Legislative drivers such as SWMPs, client demands to see environmental commitments extended to its construction projects and construction companies’ own green ambitions mean that the recycling sector has a lot to offer those seeking to reduce waste to landfill. This increased environmental commitment will also help drive new recycling processes to ensure that a wide range of materials can be more easily recycled.

Recycling and waste management company Severnside Recycling is diversifying into this sector, bringing its targeted, ‘no-landfill’ approach to C&D waste management. The company’s achievements in providing sustainable solutions to retail organisations, small companies and public sectors has seen it asked by its clients to diversify and apply the same no-landfill approach to the waste generated on retail construction projects. These projects range from new stores to refurbishments.

Severnside commercial director Mathew Prosser explains: “A key driver for us entering into the construction sector is client demand, as well as the need to target new sectors to provide materials for our recycling facilities. Taking our sustainable approach to new sectors is an exciting development, and is seeing us explore even more recycling practices to ensure we offer innovative and sustainable solutions.

“Our approach is different to traditional waste management companies because we don’t have our own landfill provision. So we are free to explore more sustainable alternatives that maximise our clients’ objectives. Our approach means that we’re not just a service provider to construction companies or clients - we are a partner because we can deliver added value through insight and detail on diversion and end uses that are helping to fulfil the legal requirements of SWMPs.”

“We don’t have our own landfill provision, so we are free to explore more sustainable alternatives that maximise our clients’ objectives”

Severnside is operating a similar way of working in construction as its other key sectors, which includes undertaking ‘waste interrogations’ of its clients. This allows the company to really understand the waste streams, quantities and where in the construction schedule they will be produced to deliver the best sustainable waste management provision.

“Waste interrogation is an essential part of our process,” says Severnside construction waste contracts manager Derek Howell. “It enables us to provide support on SWMPs because we have the information on predicted waste arisings, diversion rates and the recycling solutions most likely to be employed that these plans require. This is important, especially on projects that fall under the requirement but are still using the plans as a route to best practice.

“We aim to visit our sites every couple of weeks so we can see for ourselves the types of waste being generated and come up with new solutions, such as separate skips or bags for singular higher volume waste streams. For example, the plasterboard stage in a project generates a lot of offcuts, which are more valuable if segregated and kept clean. Bricks and rubble from a demolition stage can be recycled for use as aggregate in roads. Keeping large quantities separate saves the need for further reprocessing or sorting, ultimately saving money on the project.”

As part of its move into the construction arena, Severnside has had to source new recycling partners to process or reuse the materials. As a result, it has developed a number of close relationships with a variety of reprocessors.

Prosser believes such partnerships are crucial for this sector moving forward: “As the number of C&D projects increases, the demand for sustainable solutions grows too. We must pay attention to the carbon impact of how we handle waste arisings, in terms of landfill avoidance. At the same time, we must seek to minimise the number of miles needed to provide recycling services.”

On a store extension for Marks & Spencer in Torbay, Devon, Severnside has identified local recycling options for the waste produced during the project. “Not only is it important for us to find recycling routes for the waste produced, but the solutions need to also consider the carbon impact,” Howell says. “So we sourced and audited local recyclers, understanding their recycling routes, to ensure that the most environmentally conscious options are chosen. M&S is always looking for ways to reuse waste on-site, such as soil into landscaping and hardcore into car park foundations. Both are the very essence of a truly sustainable waste management system.”

In planning the waste management process on M&S sites, local reuse options are considered to minimise the carbon impact of reprocessing, such as giving timber to local allotments or reclamation sites. It is M&S waste policy to implement segregation systems to make the best use of the space available and most effective use of skips.

“Segregation is crucial when working towards M&S’s 95% recycling target for 2010 and its zero waste to landfill commitment by 2012. Not only is it more cost-effective, because there is no need for additional sorting, but it also means the value of the recyclate is higher, the material is cleaner and therefore requires less processing,” adds Howell.

As with all sectors, there are challenges in moving C&D waste management toward zero landfill. These challenges are two-fold.

First, until now, those organisations providing recycling options to construction projects have been engaged on a project-by-project basis and so use local recycling solutions. But when working on a national level, as many companies are now exploring, the solutions for one project might not be suitable for another, when distance and travel are considered. Second, there are some materials for which there is only one suitable reprocessing option, which presents a dilemma about whether the carbon impact of a long journey offsets the benefit of recycling.

Prosser explains: “This is especially true for the more difficult waste streams, such as carpet tiles or vinyl flooring, where there might only be only one or two reprocessors across the country. The recycling sector needs to be looking at developing the technologies that enable us to recycle such waste and avoid landfill.”

After just a few months of working in the sector, Severnside is already achieving landfill diversion rates of more than 90%, and is working towards identifying a greater variety of recycling options for more difficult waste streams.

As the construction sector begins to revitalise and grow, more construction teams are understanding the importance of implementing sustainable waste management. This is presenting exciting opportunities for the recycling industry to offer and develop sustainable solutions for construction waste.

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