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The Importance of minimising waste in Construction – UK Recycle Week 2022

Across the globe, all industries are looking for new ways to become more sustainable in order to combat the climate crisis we are currently facing. And with the construction industry being one of the world-leading industries in waste production, it is important that we discover new, greener and ways to combat climate change. Recycle Week is an awareness week founded by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) who’s mission is to promote sustainable uses of resources in “product design, waste minimisation and reprocessing of waste materials”. Recycle Week also gives the opportunity to celebrate recycling across the nation, from the micro household level to the macro industry level; and the construction industry is also doing their part!

Facts and Figures

Carbon emissions and the construction industry have long been linked to one another and not the best reasons. According to the UK Green Building Council, 10% of England’s CO2 emissions are specifically associated with construction activities, with this number rising to 45% when considering the entire building industry. In 2018, the total waste generated in the United Kingdom was 222 million tonnes, which is the equivalent of the weight of 37 Great Pyramid of Giza’s, with construction, demolition and excavation (CD&E) sources accounting for 62% of that total waste at 138 million tonnes. However, the recovery rate for non-hazardous CD&E waste in the UK was 92.3% in 2018, resulting in this ‘waste’ serving as useful purposes. Such purposes can include resource recovery, which is the process of recovering materials or energy from solid waste for reuse. For example, extracting precious and other valuable metals from old electronics or powering fuel cells from bio-gas released from the breakdown of waste.

The UK construction industry has already begun putting plans in place in order to become more sustainable. For instance, the World Green Building Council has announced the ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment’, with the target of reaching zero net emissions in building portfolios by 2030 and all building operations to be net zero carbon in operations by 2050. The UK Green Building Council launched their own ‘Climate Commitment Platform’, which is a platform that is intended as a direct response to climate change by mapping out climate commitments and carbon reductions targets in a transparent manner for UK construction operators.

What can be done to reduce waste in construction?

Considering life-cycle costs

Considering the cost for the entire life cycle of a construction project, the post-occupancy evaluation and the carbon modelling of materials used can reduce the amount of embodied and operational resources used. Making these factors as part of the overall workload should reduce the amount of construction waste produced in the lifetime of the project.

Collaboration through the pipeline process

Concise collaboration between all levels of a project is essential in reducing construction waste. With communication from the initial planning phase with developers and designers all the way to the engineering and contracting process, a clear plan will minimise the chances of potential setbacks that could lead to added waste.

New Technologies – Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the is the process of planning, designing and managing all information about a project during the lifecycle of the build, allowing subtractors and project managers to put in complex information in a 3D model to allow them to view designs in great detail. BIM can help reduce waste through focusing on the long-term sustainability of a build rather than just the delivery of a built project which, in principle, should require less carbon-intensive construction processes.

A Solution: Material Efficiency

With methods such as 3D printing not yet widely available for all construction projects, development of more material efficient strategies could be the most impactful change the construction industry could make as of now, as the manufacturing of cement alone is responsible for 8% of overall global CO2 emissions. Material efficiency strategies enable the most efficient use of materials, which could be in the form of using less materials in general, reusing materials that would’ve originally been classified as waste or specifically acquiring materials with recycled contents already in them. Important factors that developers must consider when choosing materials is to select ones that produce less pollution in production, source materials locally to help lessen CO2 emissions and to select materials that have an optimal service life.

In addition, with the development of new technologies like 3D printing that will have the potential to print and produce construction components on-site, construction projects can finally move away from the focus on the delivery of resources. If wildly implemented, this will greatly reduce the carbon footprint from the construction industry.


To be a part of an industry that is on its way towards a greener, more sustainable future then visit Construction Helpline, a trusted affiliate site that offers premium educational tests and resources for anyone interested in starting or elevating their career in construction. With products such as CSCS cards, CITB tests and NVQ courses, do not delay in enquiring with us at 0207 199 9800 to start your career today!

And for more information about UK Recycle Week 2022, click here.


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