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Waste and recycling "low on list of priorities" for construction industry

Waste and recycling is low on the list of priorities for the construction industry and some in the sector have not even thought about the environmental impact of their work. 

These were the findings from face-to-face research conducted by not-for-profit environmental organisation Kotuku, which toured sites in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Wandsworth, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham for two years.

In work sponsored by London Remade, it found that approximately 150 million tonnes of potential resources are wasted each year; this is nearly three tonnes for every person in the UK.

Ask the Fellows attributed a reluctance to purchase recycled building materials to a perception that they are more expensive and difficult to source with a higher risk potential than virgin materials.

Other major obstacles include a lack of knowledge regarding recycled and environmentally friendly products and a reluctance to change suppliers.

The report also cites careless handling of materials, the fact that agency workers are cheaper than employees but have little interest in resource efficiency, less foremen are available to enforce standards on site and materials are often ordered by tradesmen who have little knowledge of purchasing.

Kotuku project director Andrew Pears wrote in the report: The problems we encountered are a symptom of the constant pressure under which the industry operates. It regularly commits to deliver at a price that is not quite realistic, in a timescale that is not quite possible, with a labour pool that is not quite large enough and to a design that is not quite ready.

The industry works under the strain of constant deadlines. In trying to engage with those at the sharp end of the industry we found we [environmental issues] were low on the priority list.

The resounding message from research was that improving education and communication at site level would have an immediate and positive impact.

As a result, Kotuku launched the Café Van which visits sites delivering short and snappy presentations along with drinks and sandwiches.

More than 80% said that this had a positive influence on the way they would work in future, while knowledge of issues almost doubled among participants.


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