Construction company goes for zero landfill

A major UK construction company has publicly pledged to eliminate its landfill waste by 2010, as it attempts to lead a sea-change in an industry responsible for a third of UK waste - three times as much as all householders combined.

Wates Construction aims to re-use or recycle all the non-hazardous waste it currently sends to landfill – bricks, metal and packaging weighing in at 70,000 tonnes a year.

But the company’s waste mountain is negligible compared to the annual 106m tonnes that the UK construction industry produces. A third of this is sent to landfill – as outlined in the new Target Zero report on UK construction waste published by Wates to back up its calls for a UK-wide effort.

With householders producing 30m tonnes of waste, the Government’s focus on improving household recycling rates is misguided, the company said.

Wates has previously called for an industry-wide effort to reduce waste (see related story), and its new public commitment together with evidence to support its claims outlined in the Target Zero report should help strengthen its position.

Wates aims to become the industry leader on landfill – a strategy that is helping it cut costs, win over clients and prepare itself for the future. The company’s environmental manager Rachel Woolliscroft told edie: “Just the amount of money spent on waste management is enough of a driver in itself.”

“But we are producing over 100m tonnes of waste in the industry, and with only 10-15 years of landfill space left we must reduce the amount sent to landfill.”

Stephen Radcliffe, CEO of the Construction Confederation, agreed that recycling makes business sense: “The business case is clear. Having paid for materials to be delivered to sites, it makes no sense to then pay for them to be disposed of through landfill.”

In order to meet their own target, Wates is re-examining its internal organization, working with its customers and suppliers, and running awareness campaigns. It is looking at new measures, such as tackling over-ordering to cut storage time and therefore reduce the need for weather-resistant packaging.

Britain has enough recycling facilities to deal with construction waste, Ms Woollisroft assured. “The recycling markets are available, and we try to work alongside the more innovative waste contractors.

“And clients are beginning to see that zero landfill waste is a realistic goal.” The challenge now is to bring other construction companies on board, she said.

Goska Romanowicz

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