Construction industry ‘doesn’t care about waste’

Rubble, discarded plasterboard, unused timber and other unwanted building materials make a massive contribution to the UK's total waste - and, according to recycling promoters London Remade, things are unlikely to change in a hurry as the industry that produces the waste simply isn't bothered.

The construction industry wastes around 150 million tonnes of potential resources every year and a new report funded by London Remade suggests the majority of decision makers in the sector do not care about the long-term environmental consequences of its actions.

Specialist not-for-profit organisation Kotuku was hired in to carry out the research, using a café van to entice builders over for a chat over a cup of tea.

The subsequent report, Ask the Fellows, gives an on-the-ground look at the attitudes which appear prevalent in the industry.

Reluctance to purchase recycled building materials is attributed to cost, in that such materials are perceived to be more expensive and difficult to resource.

The risk potential of recycled materials is also perceived to be greater than that of virgin materials in terms of a greater potential to go wrong.

A lack of knowledge regarding recycled and environmentally friendly products and a reluctance to change suppliers are also cited as major obstacles in the purchase of recycled building and construction materials.

The report also states that increased levels of waste result from the careless handling of materials, 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.

There are, of course, notable exceptions to the rule such as construction giant Wates, which has vowed not to landfill any non-hazardous waste in the future (see related story).

London Remade is also currently working with Skanska UK to advise on sustainable building practises and materials for the redevelopment of St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the London Borough of Croydon to sustainably refurbish schools.

Sam Bond

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