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Waste not, want not

As the expression goes, “waste not, want not. By using resources sparsely and knowing what can be recycled, we can all contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment.

JOHANNESBURG SOUTH – The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) gives helpful tips and insight on what should be left out of the dustbin.

“There are various waste streams and most of them are appropriate for recycling. By seeing waste as a resource, we can help protect virgin materials and aim to create a circular economy where very little waste is generated,” says Prof Suzan Oelofse, President of the IWMSA.

Demonstrate and sell product over three busy days

A nifty website for all those interested in being environmentally friendly is MyWaste. Founder of MyWaste, Mark Gibson elaborates, “It all comes down to knowing the different waste materials and what should be done with it. The website enables residents to select the waste they want to recycle. ”We then provide them with a list of their nearest recyclers and buy-back centres in their area.”

Oelofse and Gibson explore the most common waste streams below and the best course of action to keep it out of landfill sites:

Batteries

“Car batteries are recyclable. Alkaline batteries are not often recycled and should be disposed of as a hazardous material. The best option would be to switch to rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, which are widely recycled after their lifespan,” guides Gibson.

Cans

Oelofse states that nearly all cans and tins can be recycled. “These include: food cans, aluminium cans, paint tins, steel beverage cans, oil cans and aerosol cans. Just make sure that it is clean!”

Electronic waste (E-waste)

E-waste is anything that operates from a power source (electricity or batteries) and includes computers, phones, household appliances and light bulbs, to name a few. “E-waste contains hazardous materials such as mercury and should not be disposed of at landfill. A lot of supermarkets collect e-waste for recycling, such as old bulbs and batteries,” mentions Gibson.

Food waste

Another common waste stream in the dustbin – food waste. Old scraps of food and even garden waste can easily be composted at home.

Glass

“Most glass containers can be recycled, no matter the colour. Glass bottles do not need to be separated by colour, however it is advisable that the lids are removed,” advises Oelofse. Glass and break-ware items that can’t be recycled include: computer and television screens, light bulbs, car head lights, laboratory glass, windscreens, window glass, crystal and opaque drinking glass, mirrors, heat-resistant ovenware, ceramics and clay pots.

Oil

All used oil can be recycled and includes hydraulic oil, gear oil and engine oil.

Paper

Paper is another widely accepted waste stream for recycling and includes: newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard boxes and pamphlets.

Plastic

Many plastic materials can be recycled. Gibson advises that bottle caps and lids are removed from plastic packaging. “The recyclability of this waste stream depends on the equipment of recyclers and what the lid is made of.”

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Source: southerncourier


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Reaching Zero Waste is Impossible Without Strategies for Reducing and Reusing

Have you seen the documentary “Racing To Zero” yet? It spotlights San Francisco’s efforts to achieve an aggressive zero waste goal of diverting 90 percent of its municipal waste from landfill by 2020. San Francisco leads the country in this endeavor, and in that regard has much to teach the rest of us.

However, the film’s too sunny presentation of the City by the Bay’s recycling efforts to the near exclusion of reducing and reusing risks sending a message to consumers that could perversely result in more waste generation—and wasteful consumption, not less.

Recyclables can be a valuable source of materials that can be turned into new products for often less cost and environmental impact than mining and processing virgin materials. It creates jobs and protects resources.

That said, not all materials can be physically recycled (due to difficulties separating for instance), or benefit from profitable markets that would warrant their collection.

Achieving zero waste is about more than collecting recyclables and turning them into new products. It’s about an integrated approach to solid waste management that reduces the amount and toxicity of wastes in the first place. It’s about making sure that waste materials are directed to their highest and best use; this may include refilling some packages, for example, rather than simply sending them for recycling.

Finally, according to the definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance, and espoused by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and others, zero waste is about more than landfill diversion. It is about preventing waste from occurring in the first place by changing consumption culture with a prominent role for Reduce and Reuse, the two R’s that rank above Recycling in EPA’s Waste Management Hierarchy.

“Racing to Zero” has close to zero (couldn’t resist the pun) discussion of San Francisco’s efforts to promote these other 2 R’s by highlighting campaigns (which I presume exist) to encourage consumers to use refillable water bottles and coffee cups, bring their own bags to the supermarket, or shop in thrift stores, swap instead of buy new, or obtain used products via online platforms such as eBay and Craig’s List.

These other 2 R’s are just as important if not moreso within an integrated solid waste management plan (and documentary) educating folks about the best way to get to zero waste.

Composting does play a key role in “Racing to Zero” (and is the ‘star’ of the film’s trailer), as it is considered to be a form of recycling, and its benefits are well displayed, although its treatment too could benefit from a more balanced discussion of alternative, environmentally preferable ways of disposing of food waste such as nourishment for humans and animals.

Understanding why “Racing to Zero” is so unbalanced is not germane to this column (although the film’s producer is listed as an artist in residence at Recology, the city’s outsourced recycling organization, and Recology is listed as a partner on the official website.) And I don’t mean to shoot the messenger. This film has much to teach about the potential value of recycling to shift perceptions of trash from garbage to a resource. Given its single-minded focus on recycling, perhaps it would have been better titled along those lines rather than as a portrayal of San Francisco’s zero waste efforts with its multi-pronged approach.

My main point is this: Without a more concerted focus on Reduce and Reuse, together with a more balanced discussion of the effectiveness of recycling with the context of achieving zero waste, “Racing to Zero” and any related communication by any other group to follow will lose an important opportunity to credibly educate the public at large and those of us in cities like my own (New York) about the role that recycling can play as an effective solid waste strategy. At worst, it risks sending a message to consumers that recycling is the new ‘away,’ and that our throwaway culture can continue unabated.

Source: waste360


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Investment in long-term approach towards waste management key to success

Plastics are one of the most used materials in today’s world because of its various properties, ranging from cost saving and light weighting to durability and longevity.

However, as we are using more plastic products, we are also creating more plastic waste. In keeping with international trends and the local legislative framework, the South African plastics industry has committed to the vision ‘Zero plastics to landfill by 2030’. In my opinion a somewhat ambitious target, but surely one that will call the industry to definitive action.

According to data from Plastics|SA, only 20%, or 280,000 tons, of all plastics manufactured in South Africa were recycled in 2013, which shows an increase of 4,1% from 2012. Of the 280,000 tons, 220,400 tons (79%) were plastics packaging products.

One of the reasons Plastics|SA states for the slow increase in the recycling rate, specifically for plastic packaging, is the economic down-turn during 2013 that had a direct impact on the quality and quantity of plastic packaging available for recycling. On the one hand the consumer purchased less, thus less packaging, and on the other hand the exchange rate favoured the export of recyclables.

Regulatory framework

However, it is not only the target of sending ‘Zero plastics to landfill by 2030’ that is driving change and the way in which we as producers view our responsibility towards an increase in plastics waste. In South Africa we have a progressive environmental regulatory framework. The right to an environment that is not harmful to one’s health or well-being is entrenched as a fundamental right in the Constitution of South Africa.

Understanding and navigating legislation can be somewhat daunting, but with reference to waste management and the impact of various pieces of legislation on our industry, we should understand the basic principles of the following Acts and Strategies:

 

  • National Environmental Management: Waste Act (59/2008)
  • National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act (26/2014)
  • National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS)
  • National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management (NPSWM)

The promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (59/2008), has placed great emphasis on recycling and the reduction of materials to landfill. It allows for the use of economic instruments applied to specific waste streams to serve as an incentive or disincentive to ultimately increase the diversion of material from landfill.

Six years after the Waste Act was promulgated, we saw the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act (26/2014) from which the National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management (NPSWM) is a direct consequence. The Waste Act, as amended, provides for the determination of waste management charges and its review, as well as for the collection of these charges through the national fiscal system.

It also makes provision for the establishment of a Waste Management Bureau within the structures of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The main purpose of the Waste Management Bureau will be to process, monitor and evaluate any Industry Waste Management Plan (IndWMP) submitted to the DEA. All of these aspects are prescribed in the NPSWM.

Time to get serious

It is time that we get serious about the impact that the Waste Act could have on our industry. We know that we need to increase recycling rates of our various waste streams – from rigid to flexible. But do we know what will happen if we don’t?

The Waste Act introduces us to additional principles such as the life-cycle approach to waste management, extended producer responsibility (EPR), the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.

Within the framework of EPR, we as an industry remain financially or physically responsible for a product to its post-consumer stage. According to the Waste Act, this responsibility could include the implementation of waste minimisation practices, the funding of campaigns to increase the reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste, conducting awareness programmes to inform the public of the impacts of waste emanating from the product on health and the environment.

However, should the Minister of Environmental Affairs believe that a specific waste stream either poses a threat to health or the environment, either due to the quantity or composition of this waste stream, and that current measures are insufficient in dealing with this waste stream, the Minister may declare such a waste a priority waste.

Detailed analysis

Section 28 of the Waste Act allows for the Minister to require a specific industry to submit an IndWMP or any industry may elect to voluntarily submit an IndWMP to the Minister for approval. Typically an IndWMP will provide the Minister with a detailed status quo analysis of the current waste management system, set realistic targets for waste minimisation within a particular industry, outline milestone indicators with achievable time-frames for different interventions and provide for sound record-keeping systems.

The National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) is a legislative requirement of the Waste Act set out to achieve the objects of the Act. According to Michael Goldblatt one of the challenges facing waste management in South Africa is a policy or regulatory environment that does not actively promote the waste management hierarchy.

This has limited economic potential of the waste management sector, which has an estimated turn-over of approximately R10bn per annum. Both the private and public sector believes that waste collection and the recycling industry make meaningful contributions to job creation and the GDP, and will continue to do so with the right combination of industry support and legislative drivers.

To this effect government is proposing an approach that will optimally combine regulation and compliance measures with self-regulatory components, voluntary initiatives, economic incentives and fiscal mechanisms. The approach establishes baseline regulations for the waste sector as a foundation for a co-regulatory system that relies on industry initiative and voluntary compliance.

In cases where industry response proves insufficient for dealing with waste challenges or where market failure prevails, more interventionist regulatory tools may be deployed, i.e. a mandatory EPR scheme where IndWMP have been ineffective.

Purpose of NPSWM

The National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management (NPSWM) is a legislative requirement of the Waste Act and gives effect to the NWMS. It contains guiding methodologies for the setting of waste management charges, the implementation of IndWMP and the operations of the Waste Management Bureau.

The selection and use of economic instruments, as outlined in the strategy, is strongly grounded in the polluter pays principle whereby all generators of waste (including businesses and households) are responsible for the costs of managing wastes generated.

The NPSWM is furthermore based on the principles of environmentally related taxation as per Chapter 2 of the National Treasure Framework for considering market-based instruments to support environmental fiscal reform in South Africa.

One of the aspects addressed in the NPSWM is that of EPR schemes. It is suggested that amongst other advantages, these EPR schemes could be used to relieve municipalities of some of the financial burden of management, promote ‘design for recycling’ initiatives and encourage the use of more recycled content in production processes.

In essence, EPR shifts the responsibility for waste management away from government to industry and these schemes are typically funded through the implementation of various economic instruments, levied either directly by the obligated industry (e.g. product charges, advanced recycling fees, deposit refund schemes, EPR fees), or by government (e.g. through material, input or product taxes).

Evaluation criteria

It is the Minister’s prerogative to declare the application of EPR to a product, group of products or waste stream and the evaluation criteria proposed to identify possible candidates for EPR schemes include:

 

  • Risk of harm – Products with toxic constituents that may become a problem at the end of life.
  • Large products – that are not easily and conveniently thrown out as waste.
  • Complex products – Products with multiple material types that make them difficult to recover in traditional recycling systems.
  • Voluntary measures insufficient – where participation rates or waste diversion from landfill remain low for voluntary EPR schemes already in existence.
  • Current waste stream recycling/recovery low – where the diversion of specific waste streams from landfill is low, as benchmarked against developing and developed countries (e.g. % recycling).

It is important to note that if a waste stream has not been prioritised by the Minister and a voluntary EPR schemes are already in operation, the suggested course of action would be for that voluntary systems to continue operating to ensure minimal disruption to current waste management activities. These voluntary EPR schemes may however be ‘influenced’ by DEA through the approval and implementation of the relevant IndWMPs (e.g. requiring greater support of EPR schemes to municipalities, setting of recycling targets, monitoring and evaluation by government, etc.).

Free riders

But as in any industry and with any voluntary programme, there is always the question of dealing with ‘free riders’ or companies that either refuse or fail to participate. In a recent meeting with DEA, this question was posed in relation to the pricing strategy and DEA responded: “There is a proposed additional tax that will be imposed on free riders. DEA will make it compulsory that companies need to be part of an Industry Waste Management Plan and anyone not forming part of the plan will be subjected to higher tax levels. Engagement with SARS in relation to free riders will still take place.”

When we debate sustainability in the business environment we could easily divide companies into three basic categories, namely: those who only recently embarked on the journey towards greater sustainability, those who are happily using the hype around environmental sustainability as an opportunity to ‘green wash’ their products and brands and those who have gone through great lengths (and costs) to implement the principles of sustainability at every level of their businesses.

I am of the opinion that the majority of companies operating within the PVC industry in South Africa, and globally, fall into the latter group. This is certainly true for members of SAVA who voluntarily signed a Product Stewardship Programme (PSP) in 2011 and continue to work towards achieving its robust targets and deadlines!

DEA indicated in an Industry Waste Management Forum held on 13 February 2015 that they working on a Section 28 Notice to invite industries to submit IndWMPs and that they are engaging on an ongoing basis with sectors and industries that have already voluntarily submitted their IndWMPs. It is foreseen that the Section 28 Notice will be published before the end of this financial year, to also allow a 30 day commenting period, after which the process on calling for the submission of IndWMP will be finalised.

Costs of failure

The outlined legislation either holds an opportunity for the local PVC industry to pro-actively submit and bring into effect its IndWMP, or it holds a risk should the industry decide to adopt a wait-and-see approach. When it comes to legislation and regulations, companies tend to underestimate the cost of non-compliance, which, within the framework of the NPSWM, could be dealt with by the implementation of a government managed tax similar to the plastic bag levy of which we are all too familiar with. Product manufacturers need to understand the true costs of failure, assess the business implications, and adopt long-term strategies to avoid these costs.

To this effect, SAVA is in the process of conducting an extensive recycling survey that will ultimately feed into an IndWMP that we as an industry will voluntarily submit to DEA, in response to the Waste Act and EPR and give effect to in the near future.

In summary SAVA believes that the key to succeeding and avoiding costs in our current regulatory environment is to take a proactive approach and for our industry to invest in a long-term approach towards waste management. The long-term costs of being unprepared are simply too high.

Source: Bizcommunity

How to build a Passive House off-grid, and without foam

The Passive House Institute is known to have one of the strictest energy-efficient building standards in the world. What does it take to build your own Passive House, and how can you do it with healthy, high-performance materials? This is the second of a three-part series on the challenge of building a certified Passive House without foam or other harmful materials. The challenges are numerous—from sourcing materials to making it as airtight as possible, and keeping an unseasoned team (and myself) on task. For healthy materials, simple substitutes for traditional products are not only typically easy but also cost effective. Take a look at what it takes to build a Passive House in the Colorado Rockies.

Carefully keeping the surrounding Ponderosa Pines safe, which provide critical shading in the summer, we dug out a foundation stem wall and crawl space, a design that is critical to the foamless flooring insulation system. Not only does this minimize the concrete use but 20 percent of the cement was replaced with fly ash.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 12.40.52 PM

To do air sealing right you almost have to find religion and be obsessed with making sure that every place where two building elements come together is properly sealed, well before they’re covered. At the foundation, we applied a plywood “seat” for the I-joist to sit on and a similar detail happened at the wall-to-ceiling connection. Because the walls will be very well insulated, we used vapor open materials for air tightness so moisture does not build up in the wall over time. The air barrier is closer to the living space so water will not condense on it if it gets really cold outside. The ceiling and North wall were wrapped with Intello—a “smart” membrane that changes its vapor profile depending on the relative humidity.

Why is air tightness such a big deal? Passive House requires a leakage test of .60 ACH at 50 Pascals or less because leakage is a fundamental way a building loses energy, and allows mold-making, rot-inducing moisture into a wall. The building’s airtight layer is done so we can test it before we install windows, insulation, and all the other stuff that can cover a potential problem. We hit a respectable .45 ACH at 50 Pascals, or roughly the equivalent of 8 square inches of total opening in the entire envelope.

Next, it was time to make the insulation layer. The primary insulation material is Applegate cellulose, sandwiched with Roxul mineral wool batt on the inside and Drainboard on the exterior. We started with Larsen Trusses—basically a ladder like frame made from 2×3 supported by plywood scraps and wrapped in weed fabric to hold the insulation. The Larson Trusses were screwed to the exterior wall to make large bays, and a 2.3/8″ layer of drainboard was then attached to that. After not finding a competent contractor to insulate the bays with cellulose, I purchased a machine and got dirty, learning the ins and outs of properly filling a 24″ wall cavity so the insulation won’t settle over time. Overall, we installed 1100 25-lb bags of the stuff, which is just about an entire semi-load. The best part is the insulation is all recycled from nearby Denver and produced only 100 miles south. The mineral wool board, on the other hand, had to be specially made and shipped from a factory in Canada.

The Intus windows come from Lithuania, in their own container. While less than ideal, the cost and performance are untouched by any American window manufacturer. They swing inwards and can be placed so the exterior frame can be over-insulated to reduce heat loss through the frame. The PVC windows also are the largest compromise by far from my unhealthy materials list because it is highly toxic to manufacture and very hard to recycle.

Another vital Passive House technology is the Heat Recovery Ventilator. This technology uses two fans: one to extract bad air, and one to provide fresh air. A heat exchanger keeps the energy in the building, and if hooked up to an earth tube the house can be naturally cooled in the summer. The unit I selected was the first in the US from a Czech Republic manufacture called Air Pohoda. It uses an a stingy 32 watts in regular mode (important for being off grid) and is over 90 percent effective at reclaiming waste heat.

In the meantime, the energy model seemed to go haywire when new climate data was entered. I find some interesting issues when I went sleuthing for what happened. Finishes such as siding, drywall, finish plumbing, and electrical all have to be installed—the punch list never seems to end. In the last installment of this series,  I’ll discover if it’s possible to live in a house in Colorado in wintertime with no working heat, and after doing the Passive House Planning Package software modeling for myself I get a huge surprise. We do the final blower door test with fingers crossed, and I decide to submit to the Passive House Academy for the German certification and forgo the Passive House Institute US certification. Ironically, I was the first to report on the US-German split in 2011, and that news became a very personal journey.

Source: Inhabitat


 

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Energy Efficient Reclaimed Modern House

A home that comes close to being Net Zero is highly sustainable just based on that alone, but Reclaimed Modern house designed by architecture firm Dwell Developments goes a step further, as it is also constructed from reclaimed wood, concrete and metal. It is located in the Columbia City area of Seattle, Washington.

The Reclaimed Modern home measures 3,140 square feet (290 square meters), has four bedrooms, a separate garage, and a spacious rooftop deck. It was built primarily from materials with a high amount of recycled content, while they also reused lots of materials collected from demolition sites of older buildings.

These repurposed building materials include metal and wood from a deconstructed barn in the nearby Willamette Valley. The corrugated metal they collected from this barn was turned into exterior cladding of the house, as well as to build the garden fence. The overhang above the rooftop deck was made from repurposed barn wood. The builders also used repurposed concrete for the pathway leading to the home, and they reclaimed this from a removed public sidewalk.

Reclaimed Modern home is fitted with a 7.29 kW rooftop mounted solar array, which the designers hoped would be enough to give this home a net zero level of energy consumption. Since it has only been lived in for a short time, there is no actual data to show whether they have succeeded. But the home has a HERS score of 15, which is excellent and the designers are also planning on adding another 4 kW of solar panels , which should bring this score to 0.

The builders also applied Enviro-Dri coating to the exterior of the home, which forms a weather-resistant barrier and seals the building against moisture. The home was also fitted with triple-glazed windows, while a blower test revealed wall airtightness to be at 2.5 at 50. The house took nine months to complete and was finished in October 2014.

Source: Jetson Green


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Bricks to Aid Passive Cooling

Integrating passive cooling into sustainable housing has been a must for most designers for a while now. And with the creation of the so-called Cool Bricks by the design firm Emerging Objects this feat just got a little simpler. Cool Bricks are 3D printed bricks that can be filled with water to bring the temperature in homes.

Cool Bricks work on the principle of evaporative cooling, which works on the basis of adding water vapor to air in order to lower the temperature in a room. The bricks feature a three dimensional ceramic lattice-like structure, which is capable of holding water in the pores just like a sponge does. The movement of air through the pores absorbs evaporated water vapor, turning cooler as it does so. The designers of the brick believe that if an entire house were built using these bricks, it would offer a great alternative to traditional air conditioning.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 1.38.11 PM

Cool bricks are made so they can easily interlock to form a wall with the addition of mortar. The bricks are also shaped in a way that provides some shade, shielding the wall from the sun in order to improve the passive cooling performance of the bricks. The designers are still testing the prototype, but they are confident that these bricks would be effective in cooling large rooms, while they may even be suitable for agricultural uses.

How well the passive cooling provided by these bricks works would depend on the wall’s size, the amount of water used and whether the airflow is passive or active. The bricks can be filled with water either manually or with the air of a pump.

Using these bricks seems like a pretty novel way of passively cooling a home. But it also seems like their adoption is only suitable in hot and humid areas, since the addition insulation to the bricks would likely block the pores on the Cool Bricks and render them pretty useless.

Source: Jeston Green


 

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Net Zero Waste in Construction

By Gordon Brown

According to the World Green Building Council the construction sector accounts for up to 40% of waste in landfill sites worldwide, and while this figure may be lower in South Africa construction remains a significant contributor to landfill content. The National Waste Information Baseline Report (DEA2012) indicates that the construction sector is responsible for 8% of all waste generated, although it is unclear whether this number includes the waste from product suppliers during production, which is significant. Importantly this statistic also excludes the ongoing operational waste generated in all occupied buildings, and so is understated.

Construction waste is made up of aggregates (concrete, stones, bricks) and soils, wood, metals, glass, biodegradable waste, plastic, insulation and gypsum based materials, paper and cardboard, a very high percentage of which are reusable or recyclable if separated at source. Currently 16% of construction waste is recycled in South Africa (NWIBR).

Trends and forces for change

The green building movement is being spearheaded by the CSIR and the Green Building Council of South Africa, the latter having set up rating tools that award points for, amongst other green building aspects, resource efficiency for designs which reduce waste.

Best Practice

Construction waste emanates due in some part to inconsiderate design, construction, maintenance, renovation and demolition, as well as supplier considerations such as packaging. Intelligent design and best practices during each phase can significantly reduce waste.

Design

Architects and engineers have a very significant opportunity to affect the waste generated through the life cycle of a building by determining the method of construction and the materials specified. From simple strategies like utilising building rubble onsite as fill for instance, or reusing items from demolished buildings such as wooden window frames, by specifying materials with recycled content, and adopting strategies and building methods geared to dismantling and designed for deconstruction – design affects everything, and with careful planning and consideration given to waste and reusing materials at concept stage, much waste to landfill can be avoided. An example of this is modular construction.

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It is also very important at design stage to consider how the building is going to manage operational waste while the building is occupied – sufficient space will be required for recycling storage and sorting, as well as the access to various floors and of course for collection.

Construction

At a waste management level, there are a number of best practices to ensure maximum recyclability of materials on site:

  • Make this consideration a key performance criterion when appointing contractors
  • Set targets for % of waste not to go to landfill (refer to Green Star SA for achievable best practice)
  • Have a waste management plan drawn up according to best practice prior to beginning the project(ie. Part of the tender/brief document)
  • Have correctly marked skips for certain waste streams
  • Ensure that the correct paper work is filed for all items removed from site
  • Safe disposal tickets for hazardous waste must be kept

Keep a monthly and overall project reports of all waste and at the conclusion of the project –confirm whether targets are being achieved

There are many great examples of achieving excellent standards in construction waste management, one of these was the first Green Star SA certified project in South Africa, the Nedbank Phase II building in Sandton – in 2008 the contractor was initially concerned about the high standards set within Green Star SA for waste diverted from landfill (30, 50, or 70% of construction waste). By the end of the project, with the good waste management programme they employed, they were surprised at the incredible success – they were able to divert over 90% of their construction waste from landfill. This is a significant achievement, and is replicable across all construction projects by implementing good waste management programmes.

Product and Material Suppliers suppliers have huge potential to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Many suppliers could provide their materials to site in a way that requires less or no ‘packaging’, or packaging that is recyclable, and also ensure that their contract with the construction contractors is such that their packaging is returned to them directly for recycling or reuse. ‘Packaging’ is a significant waste source. (Packaging refers to anything that is not the actual material that will be used and left installed on site.) Besides the ‘packaging’ referred to, the product suppliers are also responsible for a significant amount of waste at their own factory or storage houses – the contractors and design team can have a significant influence on the downstream waste impacts by contracting only with suppliers that minimise their waste production and maximise recycling and reuse of waste.

The building in operation

During the course of a buildings life it will require multiple new light bulbs, new carpets and flooring, painting, filling, stripping, windows due to breakages etc. Good building managers and operators can make the necessary effort to separate materials.

The Green Star SA rating tools will reward designers for making provision for separation operations within the utilities area of the building, and building maintenance would utilise these facilities for its waste streams. It is important to have both the space designed to store and sort the waste for collection, but also to have waste management policies in place for the ongoing operation while the building is occupied.

Market forces

As the market places a greater value on sustainability, products with recyclable content become more sought after. Masonry bricks made from crushed aggregates, tiles made from recycled plastics, are just two examples of products gaining traction.

On the waste disposal side, costs are rising but it remains relatively cheap to dispose of construction waste to landfill, cheaper in fact than general waste disposal which costs R272.00 per ton.

As costs increase so too does illegal dumping, which poses an environmental problem, and municipalities need to consider increasing the penalties imposed on transgressors and to find ways of policing illegal dumping more effectively. Perhaps funds from increased charges for legal dumping can be directed in part to policing illegal dumping.

The construction sector has a massive impact and a commensurate opportunity to effect positive and meaningful change. Through a combination of product design and innovation, building design and methods, and through best practice waste management on site the sector can radically reduce the amount of waste created and significantly improve on the rate of recycling.

Source: Green Building Handbook Volume 6


 

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