Construction Waste Management: Challenges and Considerations
About half of the solid waste generated worldwide are from building materials. There is an environmental impact of building material at every step of the building process — extraction of raw materials, processing, manufacturing, transportation, construction and finally disposal.
According to this Construction and Demolition Waste Status Report, “…total of 19.0 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste was generated in Australia in 2008–09. Of this total waste stream, 8.5 million tonnes was disposed to landfill while 10.5 million tonnes, or 55%, was recovered and recycled.”
It is essential for governments and authorities to consider that the built environment of the future is being constructed at the beginning of a new ecological era. Governments must now respond to the challenges of environmental sustainability, and industry must respond to the challenges of low-carbon economies and resource depletion.
If we are to move towards sustainable development, we can no longer rely on reclamation/landfills to accept most of the inert construction waste. Although there are many initiatives to reduce and reuse construction waste, a substantial amount of materials still require disposal, either at public fill reception facilities or at landfills. Landfills also pose a great threat to health and safety.
During the planning phase of the construction project, it is important to understand what excess materials are likely to be generated and then focus on how the generation of those excess materials can either be avoided or the material can be diverted from landfill.
It is now prudent and good practice to develop a construction waste management plan. The key objectives of any construction waste management plan should be to:
- Minimise the amount of waste generated as part of the project
- Maximise the amount of material which is sent for reuse, recycling or reprocessing
- Minimise the amount of material sent to landfill
The document Construction Waste Management: Plan Guidelines highlights some key elements for developing and implementing a construction waste management plan:
- Waste streams: identify which waste streams are likely to be generated and estimate the approximate amounts of material
- Focus on waste avoidance: instead of managing the waste once it has been generated, look at ways to avoid the generation of that waste in the first place
- Services: select an appropriately qualified waste management contractor who will provide services for the waste streams generated and data on waste/recycling generation
- On-site: understand how the waste management system will work on-site, including bin placement and access
- Clearly assign and communicate responsibilities: ensure that those involved in the construction are aware of their responsibilities in relation to the construction waste management plan
- Engage and educate personnel: be clear about how the various elements of the waste management plan will be implemented and ensure personnel have an opportunity to provide feedback on what is/isn’t working
- Monitor: to ensure the plan is being implement, monitor on-site
- Evaluate: once the project is complete, evaluate your estimates in the plan against the actual data for waste generated and consider feedback from personnel.