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Sustainable demolition: how to take the strain off landfill

Posted on January 31st, 2018 in Demolition

Despite an overall reduction of waste in Australia’s construction sector, solid waste from demolition and earthmoving activities is still on the rise.

As the infrastructure boom powers ahead nationwide, more wasted bricks, concrete, asphalt, plasterboard, excavated rock and hazardous materials like asbestos are filling up landfill sites and impacting on the environment. More pertinently for demolition companies, this is affecting budgets too.

From expensive landfill fees to transport costs, making your demolition practices more sustainable is good for business. Here are some ways to save the environment and funds.

Salvaging

Recovering as many usable materials as possible from existing structures will lower your project’s overall environmental impact. If these can be reused in an ongoing construction project, material and transport costs will be reduced. Otherwise, they can be sold or donated to help conserve resources.

When planning any demolition job, deconstruction should be seriously considered as an alternative. The careful dismantling of structures is more time-consuming, but it maximises the amount of material that can be reused or recycled.

Recycling

If reuse isn’t a possibility, many materials are suitable for recycling. This can be done on your site to benefit the project, such as turning bricks and concrete into fill or gravel, or timber into mulch or compost. In most cases, recyclable materials such as asphalt, concrete and metals will be sent to recycling centres to be used elsewhere.

State governments have increased landfill fees substantially over the past decade to encourage companies to use recycling centres. The current cost in New South Wales exceeds $130 per tonne of landfill waste, which quickly adds up on large-scale projects.

Rebuying

If your demolition project also involves construction, sourcing recycled masonry and materials from other local projects will lower your purchase and transport costs.

You’ll also be helping to support the local economy, and if you’re working with heritage or distinctive architecture, locally-sourced materials are more likely to be a close match.

Reduction

The best cure for demolition waste is to prevent it in the first place. Buildings and infrastructure should be designed with future deconstruction in mind, using long-lasting, low-maintenance, recyclable materials.

Employing technologies such as building information modelling (BIM) in construction design and laser scanning for site assessment helps project managers to get a more realistic idea of the quantity of materials needed, reducing excess materials left over.

Demolition project managers should also seriously consider whether structures actually need to be demolished, either fully or partially.

How to avoid penalties

If you’re running a demolition site or transporting waste, you are responsible for making sure waste is disposed of correctly. If waste is transported to a place that cannot lawfully accept it, you could face heavy fines. In NSW, the maximum fine for illegal dumping is $5 million or seven years in prison.

You can avoid these fines by preparing a waste management plan that accounts for each type of waste your project is likely to produce. It should also identify the roles of everyone responsible for its transport, from supervisors to subcontractors and transport firms. Make sure you keep written records that are updated as the project moves along.

Find out what other challenges are facing the industry

Australia’s newest civil construction and infrastructure event is coming to Sydney in November 2018, exploring all the opportunities and challenges facing construction, demolition and earthmoving today.

The National Construction Equipment Convention (NCEC) takes place from 15-17 November 2018 at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park.

Find out more

 

Sources

Department of the Environment and Energy. Australian National Waste Report 2016. https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d075c9bc-45b3-4ac0-a8f2-6494c7d1fa0d/files/national-waste-report-2016.pdf

NSW Government – Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Construction and demolition waste. http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/waste/industrial-waste/construction-demolition

Ecube Labs. Australians are paying a high price for landfills and recycling – but there are ways to save. https://www.ecubelabs.com/australians-are-paying-a-high-price-for-landfills-and-recycling-but-there-are-ways-to-save/