Building products suppliers aim to reduce construction waste

Materials World magazine
1 Mar 2008
products on shelves

Minimising waste packaging on building sites is a top priority for the new Green Procurement Group. The consortium of 13 building materials suppliers and distributors aims to reduce the environmental impact of the industry supply chain from manufacturers to distributors.

Led by Jewson, which is headquartered in Coventry, UK, the Group comprises big players such as Hanson, Lafarge and Tarmac, as well as organisations such as the Waste Resources & Action Programme and the Construction Resources and Waste Programme.

The companies aim to reduce the level of packaging used for building materials such as bricks, paint, aggregates and blocks by 20% in the next five years. This could also help contractors fulfil their own obligations under the Site Waste Management Plans, which are due to come into force in the UK in April 2008.

‘If we reduce our packaging, builders will have less waste to dispose of,’ says Steve Millward, Jewson’s Sustainability and Quality Director. The Group also wants all packaging to be easily recyclable by the end of the five-year period.

The firms are unclear, as yet, on how they will go about achieving these goals. At the next meeting in spring, packaging specialists from member companies will be invited to explain why they use certain quantities and thicknesses of packaging. Is it a case of excess material, or is all packaging essential to protect goods from damage? Understanding this is vital to instigating changes.

Millward explains, ‘For nails and screws, do we need a cardboard box with a plastic window, or can we have a box with a picture of the product on the front? Also, it might be possible to reduce the plastic used to wrap bricks – that could have a significant impact’.

He adds, ‘Waste on a building site is a massive subject. The question is what causes it in the first place?’

As well as packaging, Millward identifies unused building materials as an area of concern. This is caused by contractors over-ordering, and moving of excess stock by site workers, which often results in damage to materials.

Millward explains that contractors usually order supplies from different providers, so accounting for and returning unused materials is difficult. ‘People are not asking the tough questions,’ he argues. ‘A single agreement with a supplier challenges common practices. Why not say to the supplier – deliver this much stock on this particular day when it will be used straight away?’

Beyond the supply chain, contractors need to be brought on board to discuss the realities of onsite waste and management.

In the meantime, reducing fuel consumption in transporting materials to site is next on the agenda. ‘Almost always you get a cost benefit from environmentally friendly change – that’s a big incentive,’ says Millward.


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