Why it pays for builders to give the skip a miss

Scaffold sheeting from construction sites normally ends up in landfill, but one supplier is offering to recycle the material and reduce disposal costs at the same time

Every year, hundreds of thousands of square metres of scaffold sheeting and debris netting from construction sites are skipped and landfilled. One company has set out to combat this by launching a recycling service to divert the waste and reduce disposal costs for construction companies.

Marc van der Voort, managing director of Industrial Textiles & Plastics (ITP) who has set up the initiative, says the scheme is a "worthy solution to the age-old problem of disposing large quantities of used scaffold sheeting and netting. Our customers return the used scaffold sheeting and debris netting material and we take care of the rest".

According to ITP, the main difficulty with recycling temporary protection materials is contamination. Most recycling companies prefer waste from factories or trimmings from plastic processors as it is relatively clean and can be easily regranulated for reprocessing. However, used scaffold sheeting and netting from construction sites is difficult and costly to recycle.

Cost of grime
"It is generally dirty, embedded with grit or tainted by paint, oil or solvents and so the material needs to be thoroughly washed and cleaned before processing and there is an associated cost," explains van der Voort.

He adds: "We conducted a detailed study of the practicalities and we concluded that, for a recycling programme to work, we had to take the hassle out of the entire process for the customer. It also had to be simple, quantifiable and verifiable."

ITP is a producer of Powerclad scaffold sheeting and van der Voort says his company spent over six months modifying its products to ensure that they could be recycled without compromising technical standards or performance.

"All Powerclad scaffold sheeting or debris netting, in either a standard or a flame retardant grade, is recyclable," he says.

After dismantling from the scaffold, the material is palletised and returned to ITP where it is inspected and weighed. To provide a record for measurable recycling statistics, a recycling certificate is issued to the customer.

This normally forms part of BS 14001, the internationally recognised standard for Environmental Management Systems. By quantifying the products returned, contractors can demonstrate that they have identified and implemented significant improvements.

After sorting and grading, the material is washed and shredded before regranulating into pellets. Typically, bin bags and builders films are made from recycled plastics. Other construction-related products include bollards, fencing, decking, floor tiles and panelling.

Keeping it local
Van de Voort adds that all the material is recycled in the UK and not sent abroad to the Far East, which gives the service an ethical edge. According to ITP, the service will benefit successful construction companies by helping them to improve their eco-credentials.

Developers and contractors can also differentiate themselves from their competitors when bidding for work, demonstrating that measurable recycling improvements can be made on any project.

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