1 November 2013
By Ritu Rajashekar

Managing Packaging waste streams to achieve your waste targets

The construction industry uses enormous quantities of materials, but only about half of the construction and demolition waste generated each year in the UK is currently recycled or reclaimed. Studies have revealed that about 34% of waste from construction sites is packaging waste consisting of timber, cardboard, plastic, etc. Packaging is necessary to protect products from damage, however intelligently designed packaging and consideration of logistic arrangements early in the construction process can significantly reduce packaging waste.


The European Commission is currently reviewing key targets under the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, with the intention of bringing targets in line with the Commission’s ambitions of promoting resource efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Although the UK Government does not yet support these revised targets, if applied, they would require businesses to roll up their sleeves and do some hard number crunching.


UK Government fears that in the current economic climate it may not be possible to achieve the existing EU targets let alone the revised ones.  But many believe that having these regulations will help cut cost for the industry.  Estimates suggests that fully enforcing EU legislation on waste could save 72 billion euros a year, boost the annual turnover of EU waste management and recycling firms by 42 billion euros, and create over 400,000 jobs by 2020.


While working on the Media Centre project for London 2012, Chloe Souque, undertook some interesting analysis which demonstrated that only 469 tonnes of timber was officially delivered to the site for use in the construction works.  But, around 907 tonnes of timber was skipped.  The majority of skipped timber was associated with packaging, raising an interesting question about material efficiency and use of sustainable timber on construction sites.


Waste forecasts have, historically, generally focussed on the construction products used on site, and even new tools such as Building Information Modelling which can significantly reduce waste on site do not provide transparency and forecasting for packaging waste.  So packaging is largely an ‘unseen’ waste stream and cost, until it turns up in the skip.


At KLH we continue to collate and interrogate data to understand the packaging waste stream in more detail.  Information is key to engaging sub-contractors and suppliers in challenging the extent of packaging brought to site, and where possible enabling the return of packaging on the delivery back haul for reuse or identifying alternative uses for packaging waste.

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