Following an estimation in s2008, that the construction and demolition industry was responsible for 25 million tons of landfill waste – just in England – the government decided it was time to take action to reduce this figure. One of the key targets of the Government’s Strategy for Sustainable Construction was to cut this figure in half, reducing it by 50% by 2012.
A landfill tax escalator was put in place to speed up the progress towards this goal – the annual increase was £8 per ton from 2011 until 2014.
In April 2015’s budget the landfill tax increase was in line with inflation, the rate increased by only £2.60 – with the standard rate rising from £80 per tonne to £82.60 per tonne. There are still two landfill tax rates. The lower one, which applies to less polluting waste, including bricks, stone and concrete with small amounts of wood and plaster, went up this April by just 10p, from £2.50 to £2.60.
Despite an increase in standard rates, that doesn’t help the fact that landfill sites are reaching capacity – with the construction industry continuously picking up the pace, a new approach is needed. Here, waste management company, Reconomy investigate whether the concept of circular economy in your construction projects could help you avoid the impact of landfill tax increases.
Rethinking construction waste
A new concept was introduced in 2008 which encouraged a waste hierarchy. This was to help us hit the new target set by the EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD). Their aim was to have 70% of construction, demolition and excavation waste recycled by 2020.
Following the approach, the industry is now beginning to think differently, for example:
- Considering the ease of reusing materials at the end of a building’s useful life at the planning phase.
- Incorporating reclaimed and recycled materials into new buildings and renovation projects.
- Reusing materials that might otherwise go to waste, either on the same site or elsewhere.
- Segregating waste on site to ensure the absolute minimum goes to landfill.
This way of thinking encourages a more positive attitude towards reusing materials.
The circular economy – inspired by nature
This new approach has encouraged a shift in attitudes towards waste. It is increasing awareness in the industry of a philosophy known as the circular economy.
The core principles include:
- Minimising the volume of waste created by taking a longer-term view.
- Focusing on ways to harness the innate value of the waste that is generated.
Where before, the industry would simply dispose of materials when they are finished with them, moving forward now you can ask yourself: if something can’t be reused as it is, can it be recycled? Alternatively, can it be used as a resource or fuel to produce energy? This reflects the way the natural world works, with a web of interconnecting product lifecycles and nothing ultimately going to waste.
Real economic benefits
Looking at the bigger picture, if you are planning a project, if you apply to the circular approach to your waste strategy, you could not only save money in landfill taxes, but could offer wider financial benefits for you and your clients. Here are a few examples of ideas to implement:
- Considering ways to minimise waste at every stage of a project.
- Sourcing reclaimed and recovered materials, such as recycled aggregates, which often works out cheaper.
- Segregating different recyclable waste streams on site.
- Using plasterboard offcuts for patching and completing small areas.
- Reusing suitable brick and block hardcore waste on site.
- Saving excess materials to use for other projects.
So, when you plan your next project, it might be worth considering the circular economy approach to reduce disposal costs whilst also benefiting your business and of course, the environment.