How to minimise waste on your construction site

By Shoko McKay
May 11, 2021

If you are reading this, chances are you are already concerned about the high levels of waste produced by the construction industry.

Or maybe you are more alarmed by its effect on your bottom line, given that the Australian construction sector collectively spent $2 billion on waste services for the period 2018-2019, the highest of any sector.

In Australia, the main strategy to reduce the construction waste sent to landfill seems to be the use of levies. However, in recent years many have begun to question if this strategy is achieving the results as intended, such as reducing building waste disposal and increasing resource recovery activities. Particularly when you consider that construction waste actually increased by 22 per cent since 2016-2017.

The good news is that there is willingness within the sector to move to more sustainable practices. Here at Knauf Insulation for example, we have a clear focus on sustainability with a comprehensive plan to achieve our target to take back 25% of scrap generated by our customers’ job sites by 2025.

So, if you’re like us and have a strong commitment to sustainability, whether you’re carrying out your own DIY or starting a major build, here are four tips for how to minimise waste on your construction site.

1. Plan ahead

Waste should never be an afterthought. Waste reduction starts at the design phase and by planning your project with sustainability in mind. This might involve:

  • • Selecting sustainable or recycled materials
  • • Identifying materials already on site that can be reused and recycled
  • • Opting for prefabricated components or designing to standard dimensions to reduce off-cuts
  • • Conducting regular inventory checks and measuring exactly to avoid over-ordering
  • • Making sure bins are on site and marked clearly, and that all workers know how to sort waste.

2. Reuse, recycle, on-sell or donate

If demolition is a key part of your project, consider a “soft” tear down and salvage materials for re-use. Windows, plumbing fixtures, tiles and timber can be sold to salvage organisations or donated and used as a tax write-off.

Next step is to implement a strategy to recycle what cannot be reused. In most jurisdictions there are building material recycling services for metal, cardboard, untreated wood, concrete, gravel, window glass, carpeting, drywall, brick and roofing. Having a recycle bin for workers to use on site will help, and proper training will help minimise contamination and double handling.

3. Store appropriately

Damage from mishandling, weather and vandalism can be an unintended source of construction waste and significantly add to your project costs. Weather-proof covers, careful positioning on site, and just-in-time deliveries will help minimise the time on site and risk of damage.

4. Manage packaging waste

Waste from packaging can be considerable, so why not consider approaching your suppliers to work on options for re-use. Hard wood pallets, for example, if cared for properly, could be returned for re-use resulting in lower costs for both suppliers and customer.

Careful product selection can also help to reduce packaging waste. Earthwool®, for example, has superior compression due to its patented ECOSE® Technology, which means you get more product per pack. Plus, the soft plastic packaging is recyclable – just look for the 4 LDPE symbol on our packaging to confirm suitability.

So, the lesson here is, have a plan and you will be better able to manage construction waste and minimise disposal costs. For more helpful tips and DIY advice, please visit the new Knauf Insulation blog, follow us on LinkedIn or like us on Facebook.