Is Construction Waste going in the Right Direction?

Wales leads the way in the management of construction waste in the UK, but we need to prove it and we need organisations to commit and sign up for the Green Compass scheme, waste is a big bug bear nowadays.

9th October 2014

It is one that in Welsh construction is beginning to get a grip of now. The perceptions of a wasteful industry sometimes reinforced by an untidy building site is out of date, because in the last six years the Welsh construction sector has been making great strides in improving the way that site waste is minimised and managed.

A lot of that has been down to the hard work of the CEW team and the support of our stakeholders, but one of the landmark schemes we introduced that has made a difference is Green Compass.

In 2009 British Standards Institution Publications launched PAS 402 : 2009. This document was sponsored by Welsh Government through Constructing Excellence Wales’ construction waste programme. It was the culmination of a year’s intense activity in CEW working with representatives from the construction and waste sectors, the then Environment Agency Wales and academia to develop a standard for the industry with the industry’s collaboration. In parallel with this work CEW developed a quality scheme, the Green Compass, which allows waste management companies to demonstrate compliance with the standard. The scheme is independently inspected by a UKAS accredited inspection body to give the customer total confidence in the data published in the waste company’s publicly available annual report.

By using the scheme contractors and their clients know what is happening to their waste. It gives everyone certainty. But whilst we know that Green Compass and other initiatives are helping us make significant progress towards achieving Government targets across the industry the picture is patchy and as a rule it is the larger firms who claim high “recycling” figures.

The driver for this data frequently comes from discerning clients who require the evidence that their corporate environmental targets are being achieved. Over time these initiatives have highlighted to the construction companies the real benefits of managing this resource (because that’s what waste is), from every aspect – the health and safety aspect, the environmental aspect and very importantly the financial aspect.  But what we really need is accurate data. Construction companies derive their waste data from their selected waste management company. There is no reason to doubt the veracity of the supplied data although frequently reported round numbers e.g. 80% suggest that these are broad estimates of overall percentage recovery. If greater confidence in the actual recovery data becomes a requirement, and it surely must, there is an option for the construction company which has a particularly Welsh flavour.

What we need is more people signing up to Green Compass and giving a real sense of direction and solid date to the waste campaign. If the use of the scheme was universally adopted in Wales it would provide Welsh Government with validated data which in future would negate the need for expensive waste surveys.

The scheme has now had more than 60 applications from waste management organisations in Wales and interest in the PAS has now extended to companies in England who have been prompted by the UK Contractor’s Group initiative which will require their waste companies to be PAS 402:2013 compliant.