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Go Green: Reduce Waste in Construction

July 21, 2017

During the different phases of construction, there are a lot of wasted materials from projects that can impact the environment in a variety of ways. As professionals operating within this industry, we believe it is our responsibility to help educate those around us about the ways in which you can help reduce your waste during construction. ­

Bring awareness of your goals within this stage.
  • Some contracts may put specific target goals about recycling their materials. If you are working with a general contractor, make it clear to them that you would like them to operate in whatever ways possible to minimize the environmental impact.
  • By bringing awareness right away, the building itself can be designed around the standard sizes of materials. Saving the need to cut materials allows the contractor to fully optimize the materials on hand, and therefore reduce waste.
  • Try to avoid purchasing excess materials in the beginning of your project. Go over your plans to determine the correct amount of materials you need with some wiggle room, as we know that mistakes may happen. By avoiding the purchase of excess materials to your job site will save on your budget. It’s a win-win for everyone. How can you not be happy about that?

Identify reusable or reused materials in your plans. 
  • This will create awareness to those working on the project and they will know if I can be reused, recycled, demolished, or thrown into a landfill.

    Listed below are a few examples of some materials that can be recycled:
  • Plasterboard
  • Aggregates
  • Metals
  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Wood
  • Bricks and Blocks
  • Floor and Wall Coverings
  • Insulation
  • Packaging

Referring to a study conducted at Stanford University, “recycling can be more efficient in terms of energy, money, and natural resources when compared to a system that manufactures everything from virgin materials and sends it all to landfills when consumers discard it.” [1]
Concerned that using these methods will cost more? If you take the time to research and compare prices, it can often times be less expensive to recycle compared to throwing it into a landfill.

Create a system.
  • As we discussed earlier, it is important to bring awareness to which materials are reusable, recycled, or thrown away. By creating separate areas designated for trash and recycling during the construction process, a system is created for the contractors to discard the materials accordingly.
Try to avoid adhesives, laminates, and protective coatings.
  • Using those materials will limit the offer to reuse or recycle.
Seek other ways to reuse materials
  • If you seem to have a variety of resources that seem to be useless to you in the foreseeable future, reach out to other organizations that can use these materials. Although the materials may not be of use to you, there are plenty of people going through their own construction process that could be looking for the exact materials you have in excess.
Have a secure area to store the various building materials.

[2] 10 Surprising Things You Can’t Recycle

1. Pizza Boxes
2. Wet Paper
3. Plastic Bottle Caps
4. Juice Boxes
5. Plastic Bags
6. Styrofoams
7. Wire hangers
8. Paper Napkins or Towels
9. Ceramics
10. Heavily-Dyed Papers

Try to think of these methods within the different stages of construction that will reduce the waste of materials. Not only will it reduce costs, but it was also be beneficial to the environment and the society.

Question:  What are some ways you reduce waste throughout projects?

Please share your advice to create awareness!

[1] Butler, Katherine. "10 Surprising Things You Can't Recycle." EcoSalon. July 11, 2012. Accessed July 14, 2017. http://ecosalon.com/10-surprising-things-you-cant-recycle/.
[2] Micks, Ashley. "The Costs of Recycling." The Costs of Recycling. December 12, 2012. Accessed July 14, 2017. http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph240/micks2/.