Responsible waste management in the construction sector, as it is in others, is a central feature of sustainable operations.

The trend to diversion (reduction, recycling, and reuse of waste) is growing exponentially as businesses realise not only that their reputations depend on their environmental custodianship but also that effective waste management actually makes a substantial contribution to their bottom line. Quite apart from the obvious cost savings delivered by efficient waste management, a holistic, integrated approach to waste management can create value through the return of wastes to manufacturing processes, promoting and seeking out opportunities for incorporation of recycled materials into products, and prioritising reduction of building related wastes through efficient job site practices.

In fact, it could be said that efficient and effective elimination and minimisation of waste and reuse of materials are essential aspects of design and construction activity. Creativity, persistence, knowledge of available markets and businesses, and understanding of applicable regulations are important skills for design and construction professionals. The more so, as green building regulations kick in.

However, local practices in the management and disposal of construction and demolition wastes are often shaped by the availability of suitable disposal sites, economic conditions, societal priorities, availability of markets for recycling and reuse, transportation options, and the capabilities of local workforces and construction businesses to adapt long-standing processes for the management of waste.

Added to this complexity of industry influences are all the waste materials that need management:

Hazardous wastes (listed, characteristic, and universal types identified by legislation)

  • Asbestos containing materials (friable and non-friable)
  • Lead containing materials
  • Products containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Solvents, chemicals, petroleum-derived products
  • Dust
  • Fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps
  • Electronics
  • Medical waste
  • Materials contaminated with waste

Benign wastes

  • Woody and plant materials
  • Concrete
  • Gravel, aggregate, stone, and rock
  • Masonry and rubble
  • Metals (ferrous and non-ferrous)
  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • Doors and windows
  • Asphaltic roofing
  • Gypsum board
  • Carpet and pad
  • Cardboard and paper
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Lighting fixtures.

Other factors to be taken into account, when choosing a waste management strategy, include the fact that, as energy prices increase, construction and demolition waste will be more widely recognised as a recoverable resource. Technology and attendant regulations may promote improvements in the diversion of wastes from the landfill toward energy generation and recycling of materials.

Organic material such as wood and plant wastes will increasingly be recognised as important components of biofuel feedstock in the generation of green power.

Industrial recycling equipment manufacturers are investing in development of improved machinery that has the potential to revolutionise the efficient sorting and diversion of waste. Industrial shredders, for instance, reduce physical volume and produce particles of consistent dimension, allowing efficient mechanical separation. Industrial air separation technology allows efficient segregation of materials with differing density characteristics, enabling the separation of small pieces of wood and plastic from metal and aggregate.

Choosing the best waste management options among such diverse alternatives can be difficult for individual construction organisations. This is where organisations like EnviroServ can be invaluable in an advisory capacity and as an outsourcing option.

Our more than three decades of specialisation in all forms of waste management gives us a depth and breadth of insight and experience that is a resource for our customers. We can plot a sensible, affordable path through all the confusing options that will give you the most direct route to a waste outcome that actually contributes to the sustainability of your business.

If you would like to find out what options are available for your organisation, please contact our Customer Care Line on 0800 192 783 for South African enquiries and click here for the contact details for enquiries across Sub-Saharan Africa​.