20 Million Tonnes Of Construction Waste A Year

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Updated: July 28, 2020

Can We Reduce That Number?

As Earth’s population continues to grow, construction companies are erecting more and more buildings to accommodate people.

From residential homes to office buildings, new structures are appearing across the globe. However, workers are also demolishing many older structures to make room for newer ones. Consequently, about 90 per cent of construction waste comes from demolition projects. In 2017, the construction industry generated more than 20 million tonnes in Australia alone. Most of this waste included metal, concrete, timber rock and bricks.

Between 2016 and 2017, workers dumped 6.7 million tonnes of this waste into landfills. The rest they either recycled or converted into energy. While this may seem like a huge amount of waste to toss in a dump, Australia has actually managed to reduce the amount of waste each person generates by about 10 per cent since 2006. Still, as populations grow, progress plateaus and construction waste remains a pressing issue.

Currently, Australia is developing new and improved methods of combating waste generation, but will they be effective?

Salvaging And Reusing

Many materials, including aluminium, timber and copper wiring, are all reusable. If demolition teams take extra care in removing these materials before taking a wrecking ball to buildings, they may be able to minimise their waste generation.

Moreover, they can use these materials to complete their next construction project, saving money and conserving resources. Similarly, construction companies can conserve resources and eliminate waste by carefully excavating work sites. For instance, hydro and air excavation allow teams access to underground wiring and pipes without damaging them. This way, they can fix structures without causing damage and having to replace them in the process.

Recycling

Last year, the Council of Australian Governments declared a ban on exporting nearly all recyclables oversees. This new order is set to take effect in the second half of this year and will help Australia work towards achieving a circular economy. The plan will force many construction companies to begin salvaging, reusing and recycling materials.

The council’s goal is an 80 per cent recovery rate, with only 20 per cent of all waste going to landfills. Additionally, Australia aims to reduce total waste generation by 10 per cent per person by 2030. Council members are still hammering out the specifics, but Australia is making moves in the right direction. As to whether or not they’ll reach their 2030 goal, we’ll have to wait and see.

Improving Communication

Encouraging people to recycle and banning waste exports is one thing, but managing and sorting waste from recyclables is another matter, entirely. This feat requires teams to be in constant communication with one another and to have the manpower to do so in the first place. Luckily, the council expects every 10,000 tonnes of recycled waste to generate 9.2 jobs as opposed to the 2.8 jobs the same amount of landfill waste creates.

Waste management companies are also investing in telecommunication services to better accomplish these ambitious new goals. For example, Grasshopper Environmental is a waste management company that collects and sorts demolition and construction waste in Sydney with the goal of recycling it. Recently, the company teamed up with Vertel and Ondacomms, two Australian wireless telecommunications carriers, to improve fleet communications. Now, Grasshopper Environmental can cover more ground and recycle even more.

Building 4.0 CRC

The Australian government is also providing funding to different schemes and programs aimed at reducing construction waste.

One such scheme is Building 4.0 CRC to which the government recently granted nearly $50 million. The project’s goals include cutting project costs, halving carbon emissions and reducing construction waste by 80 per cent.

Additionally, some of the funding will support the Cooperative Research Centres Program and its efforts to integrate artificial intelligence and data science into the construction industry. The program’s endeavours also include training masters students and apprentices in new technologies. In time, Building 4.0 CRC will transform the way the industry visualises, builds and designs modern architecture.

Time Will Tell

Thanks to an ever-growing population, waste generation continues to increase. However, so do efforts and goals to minimise waste and promote recycling. Will these plans be enough to actually reduce waste, or will they merely quell the stream of waste for a short while? Australia certainly seems to be moving in the right direction, but the next decade will be very telling, indeed.