Last week’s announcement by Hon. Eugenie Sage, about proposals to increase and extend the national landfill disposal levy, laid the foundations for a change of approach to move further up the waste hierarchy and focus on reduction and recycling.
This is particularly true for the construction and demolition industry. With all landfills apart from cleanfill expected to pay the levy – and at a higher rate – this should incentivise even more innovation in this sector.
The consultation will doubtless bring forth a host of ideas for the future. In the meantime, here are just some of the ways that the construction industry is already playing its part in thinking about recycling and reusing as the first call to action.
Ged’s interlocking clips
In one of our e-news articles recently, we mentioned a game-changing X-frame created by Victoria University PhD candidate, Ged Finch. His self-braced interlocking wood design clips together, eliminating the need for single-use fixings such as nails, staples and glues. Ged is now getting funding to commercialise his product because it could help change the waste landscape of New Zealand.
Building them up, bringing them down
There’s now a prefabricated housing trend which means that all materials are applied in one place to the ‘measure twice, cut once’ principle. By creating new builds in this way, the need for 10% of contingency materials that contractors purchase for on-site construction is wiped out.
But what about when a house needs to come down rather than go up? WasteMINZ member EnVision has been piloting how to deconstruct buildings ethically rather than applying the wrecking ball and junking the remains. Working with the likes of Rekindle, the Whole House Reuse Project and the Tāmaki Regeneration Company, they have trialled the deconstruction of three houses and developed a business case for deconstruction over demolition. For their most recent project, a community-engaged deconstruction of a 1950’s house, they achieved an 87% diversion away from landfill and proved that deconstruction can match and sometimes surpass demolition on price.
Civil Share App
When construction company owner, Regan Burke, wanted to find a way to divert construction waste from landfill, he sank his own money into developing the CivilShare app – a free-to-use marketplace for people in the construction industry to buy, sell, trade, and share resources.
Westlake Boys students were able to build their own sports office from construction site waste traded on the app, and the tonnage diverted from landfill is growing daily.
Community Recycling Station
Downer and Hawkins are another organisation looking to share the love. As part of Recycling Week 2019, they ran an in-house competition for ideas on how they could do better with waste – and among many excellent solutions, the Hawkins Central team who work on the new Zespri Head Office in Mt Maunganui, topped the lot.
They established a community recycling station at a building site, where the public were able to collect reusable construction waste that the site had generated, rather than throw it out. A council representative visiting the site once a week to ensure all the rubbish was in the correct bins. In the words of the team, they “turned a mountain into a mole hill”.
DIY Garage Sale
Along similar lines, we reported in revolve, March 2019 on a giant DIY garage sale in Cambridge that saved about 13 skips of construction waste – around 15 tonnes – from being trucked off to landfill. The brainchild of locally-based Rob May Builders supported through a campaign from Waipā District Council, the event pulled in hordes of DIY enthusiasts and also raised $11,000 for a local school.
Rob May director Jono McCullough couldn’t have been more pleased. “This event was great because we’re finding new uses for our waste, keeping material out of landfill and supporting a local school in the process. It was a win-win all round.”
So what next?
Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage (pictured right at the WasteMINZ Conference and Expo 2019), has pointed out that wasting good, usable products is “not the Kiwi way,” and schemes like these show “a great contribution to this shift to more sustainable thinking.”
There are many other examples out there, such as Auckland Council’s ‘Guide to Building Out Waste’ and the plethora of ideas discussed at the Construction and Demolition session at the WasteMINZ Conference and Expo in September 2019.
But the bigger joy of these projects is that they’re not just about saving waste. These initiatives have brought communities together, helped people save money while improving the safety and stability of their homes, and have raised awareness about recycling construction material, getting it out of landfill and into more long-term use.
We’d love to watch these ideas spread around the country – and see what other forehead-smacking brilliance people can come up with to help NZ townships while saving the environment.
So gather your construction businesses, colleagues and communities, and go recycle that No 8 Wire.
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