Construction waste can have environmental benefits, officials say
The construction industry must take a big part in reducing and reusing non-hazardous waste, according to Irish government officials.A lack of understanding of the new regulations and exactly what caused something to be classed as hazardous waste or not often led to materials that could potentially be reused being thrown away, according to senior inspector for the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Dr Jonathan Derham.
"The problem lies in confusion, a lack of understanding and no consistency I how we see and deal with waste," he said. "Not all residues produced at construction sites should be classed as waste, and many could easily be reused."
Whereas many companies seemed to think that involving regulators to classify waste was burdensome, taking a long time and complicating issues, Dr Derham believed that it was important to identify the difference between discarding construction waste and being required to discard it.
He confirmed that any materials that were not clearly contaminated or required any special treatment, not including crushing, screening or grading, could be either be reused or passed on to another construction site for reuse elsewhere.
To promote sustainability in the industry, waste materials such as concrete, glass, bricks and soil should be reused wherever possible as it replaced the need to use up other natural resources, as long as they were not used in such a way that would damage a protected area or cause a pollution incident.
Dr Derham added that laying some waste materials in the ground below developments such as car parks or over the ground on farm land, could actually be environmentally beneficial as long as it complied with landfill regulations:
"If waste does not go deeper than two metres than it can be used to fill land if it will have agricultural or industrial benefits - it then becomes a land improvement exercise, rather than a landfill site."
By Jane Kettle