The greatest volume of waste in the Auckland region comes from commercial sources not individual households. Waste from construction and demolition holds the greatest potential for waste minimisation partly because it is the biggest source of materials going to landfill. It is more than double the total waste from all household collections in the region.
Auckland produced at least 568,935 tonnes of construction and demolition waste in fiscal year 2018/2019. That is the equivalent of 23,155 shipping containers.
An average new house build produces 4.5 tonnes of waste, with materials worth more than $31,000 if they were saved rather than sent to landfill.
To put it into perspective, you’d have to set your kerbside bin out weekly for more than 30 years to generate that much waste
Why do valuable materials end up landfill?
Auckland Council undertook a qualitative research project with Colmar Brunton to better understand the industry sentiment towards waste reduction. Construction experts representing a broad range of the industry confirmed that any change needs to clearly articulate the industry benefits, ensure external market structures provide the capability to act sustainably, and be backed by regulation.
Demolition contractors might recycle materials that have a ready market but lament the volume of good reusable construction materials that still go to landfill. While they are aware that community-based centres take these materials, they lack real connections to easily distribute them. They are also wary of adding time, complexity, and risk to the project.
Councillor Richard Hills, Chair of the Environment and Climate Change committee, summarises the feedback, saying, “Almost everyone we spoke to accepts that the lack of sustainability is a problem which needs to be addressed. And some people are creating their own workarounds.
“The alternatives need to be easier to implement and more financially viable before there will be broad industry interest in changing practices towards sustainability.”
“There’s work to be done to raise awareness on the impact that construction and demolition waste has on climate change and our environment. We need to enable people to make the change by showing them how to do it and creating a culture around reducing waste on the jobsite. Auckland Council is interested in aligning with industry and education leaders to grow the skills needed for this shift.”
The path to sustainability
The industry feedback also identified some better practices for engaging the customer, designing the jobsite, and standardising materials to reduce waste. For example:
- Design waste out at the initial stages of concept and planning the build
- Encourage contractors to provide more than one option of pricing/services for waste management and let the customer decide
- Ensure the contractor has a Site Waste Minimisation Plan to plan out and separate waste and to eliminate waste escaping from site
- Offer multi-bin options that work for small sites with a colour-coded system for the different types of materials
- Work with suppliers to reduce waste on packaging
- Create an onsite waste management mental shortcut system for staff and contractors to engrain positive behaviours easily, introduce waste into induction and toolbox discussions.
- Equalise the waste levy to include all landfills and construction waste
“We need a cultural shift towards waste minimisation that is similar to the changes we have seen in the industry around health and safety.”