When dealing with construction waste there are six questions you should ask yourself. WRAP's Mervyn Jones explains

If you've been tasked with managing site waste it pays to be methodical. WRAP's Mervyn Jones suggests starting your waste strategy by asking yourself six questions.

1. Do you know how much waste your project is producing and what your waste disposal costs are?

You may think you know. But this is far more than just the cost of skip hire and waste removal. If you are a construction client, do you know how much your waste is costing you? As a contractor do you have full understanding of your duty of care obligations?

Fact: the true cost of waste, including the purchase cost of unused materials, their transport and handling, has been measured as over 15 times the cost of skip hire

2. Are you measuring the waste arising on your site?

If you are not, it is extremely difficult to identify how to reduce your waste or improve your performance. If you do, are you measuring by cost, volume or tonnage and is this the right measure to help you reduce wastage?

Fact: case studies show that measuring waste can lead to savings of 3% of build costs and up to 20% of materials on site

3. Do you know why your waste is arising?

There are opportunities to reduce the amount of waste produced at all stages. Smart thinking and robust practices during project specification, design and construction will pay dividends. Being aware of where you are producing, or likely to produce, waste is the start point for setting requirements and targets for improvement. On your last project, did you know how much waste was produced and what factors contributed most? For example:

  • The way you handled and used materials on-site
  • How you stored materials
  • The over-ordering materials
  • The delivery of materials to site
  • The design and specification of the project
Fact: All these factors contribute to wastage on-site. One of the greatest areas of potential for reducing site-waste is through the design and specification of the project.

4. Do you know how much of your waste materials are being re-used or recycled?

Effective waste management isn’t just about reducing the number of skips. Understanding where your waste goes and what happens to it can contribute to your measured performance, through increased recycling rates. By taking action now to ensure you understand how your waste is re-used or recycled you can reduce the costs of disposal that could give you a real business advantage.

Fact: Higher recycling rates lead to less materials going to landfill and associated disposal costs.

5. Are you separating wastes on site?

There are not always opportunities to separate waste on site but when available you can reduce the costs of disposal by separating wastes. The costs of disposal for some separated wastes can be significantly lower than that of mixed waste.

Fact: The value of recyclate is higher for wastes separated at source than for most mixed wastes

6. What are you doing about your waste?

Developing and implementing a site waste management plan (SWMP) will enable you to demonstrate compliance with duty of care responsibilities and provide a way of proactively managing (and reducing) waste arising on your project, resulting in the potential for cost savings. Next year, SWMPs may become a mandatory requirement.

Those that are proactive now and taking advantage of the best practice recommendations available will not only get a business advantage and a real market edge, but could save time and costs.

Fact: Only 13% of the construction sector is actively using waste management plans. DTI’s Voluntary Code of Practice provides an outline for a SWMP as a starting point.