Waste Recovery Quick Wins - Improving recovery rates without increasing costs

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Executive summary

Implementing good practice waste minimisation and management on construction projects will help to reduce the
significant quantities of construction waste sent to landfill and make a substantial contribution to sustainable development. Reducing the amount of waste from a construction project will:

  • reduce material and disposal costs;
  • conserve natural resources;
  • minimise environmental impact;
  • improve competitiveness and public image;
  • meet planning requirements; and
  • help to achieve sustainable construction.

On any project there are certain key waste streams that offer significant potential cost savings and environmental benefits and which are known as ‘Waste Recovery Quick Wins’. By implementing three to four of these Waste Recovery Quick Wins, there is potential to increase overall recycling rates of construction waste by more than
20% compared with standard industry performance.

A Waste Recovery Quick Win is an improvement in recovery (reuse or recycling) for a specific construction waste
material, applicable on a range of construction projects, which will deliver a higher rate of recovery than standard
practice without increasing costs and preferably with a cost saving (i.e. it is cost neutral).

The extent to which the construction industry is improving its performance with regard to waste can be described
using the concept of standard, good and best practice. Waste Recovery Quick Wins represent good practice; they
involve a range of activities that are relatively easy to implement and which move sites forward from today’s
baseline performance (standard practice). Best practice reflects the leading approach in the industry but may
involve a cost premium or require a significant change in working practice.

WRAP has identified good practice and best practice recovery rates for a range of common wastes on
construction sites (see table below). Evidence for these recovery rates was obtained in a study involving three
approaches – desk-based analysis of published material, consultations with stakeholders, and collection of
information from live case studies featuring a wide range of project types.

The construction industry is already achieving high recovery rates for some materials (e.g. metals and inerts).
These are not the primary purpose of Waste Recovery Quick Wins. They focus on materials where recovery rates
can be increased without the need for significant investment or major changes.

Timber, plasterboard and packaging are typically the main Waste Recovery Quick Wins for a range of projects –
primarily during the structural, internal and fit out phases. This is due to:

  • the quantities of these wastes generated; and
  • the significant increase in recovery rate from standard to good practice.

However, these Waste Recovery Quick Wins may not represent the best opportunities on all projects. It is therefore important on any project to consider all waste streams for their potential for Waste Recovery Quick Wins. The cost savings from adopting Waste Recovery Quick Wins will stimulate the adoption of improved recovery practices and motivate a sustained change in waste management practice.

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