Cutting Waste and Cutting Costs – How the Construction Industry is Cleaning Up to Save Money

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With the UK housing market at an all-time low, it is not surprising that the construction industry is at the forefront of reform when it comes to adapting to a harsher economic climate. However, with the introduction of a government scheme a year ago and the arrival of numerous independent programmes, the industry is not merely cutting back on power tools spend and streamlining its workforce to meet its goals – instead, it is moving down a much greener path.

For most of us, the recession seemed to really come to fruition in the latter half of 2008 as we saw stocks fall by 30 percent across the globe and numerous high profile buy-outs. Somewhat conveniently, the UK government had established money-saving site waste management plans (SWMPs) back in April.

The SWMPs were made compulsory for construction projects that were over £300,000 in order to keep track of the amount and type of waste produced and whether it is disposed of in landfills – or if it is recycled or reused instead. Their importance is highlighted by research carried out by the NetRegs partnership which found (amongst other things) that the average cost of what is thrown away in one skip amounts to £1,200, and that 13 percent of what is delivered to a site will be thrown away instead of being used.

But it is not just large scale construction operations who are benefiting from site waste management plans. Private company, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), was established in 2000 to help small, medium and large construction projects to reduce their waste and recycle more. Following the government’s moves to make SWMPs compulsory in April 2008, WRAP launched a new three year plan which aims to divert eight million tonnes of waste from landfill, to cut five million tonnes of CO2 emissions – and to benefit individuals, businesses and local authorities by over one billion pounds.

Similarly, Envirowise offer free support services to businesses by making them more resource efficient. Established in 1994, the company highlights the great cost (four percent of turnover) of inefficient resource use to businesses and aims to reduce waste. Such methods as establishing partnerships with suppliers have been proven to offer economical and environmental benefit to the whole of the industry, including businesses at the supply end of the construction change, as well as those at the end.

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