Moving house and have a pile of rubbish and old junk for removal? Or taking down your old shed and assuming the mound of metal, wood and concrete will be recycled once it is taken away?
Many building materials and household junk and rubbish can be re-used or recycled, but we live in a throw-away society where the easiest solution to our waste is often not the best for the long-term health of our planet and its inhabitants.
Taking junk removal to a whole new level
You know how some people just get it when it comes to the environment? How about a whole country?
In Sweden more than 95% of their glass, 85% of their newspapers, 70% of their metals and 65% of their plastic is recycled. The country’s citizens produce only 460 kilograms of waste per individual each year, staggeringly less than half of what many ‘developed’ countries produce. And only about 1% of this waste goes to landfill, with half being recycled and the rest burnt to provide energy.
Individually and collectively Sweden is demonstrating what real eco-friendly looks like.
So what about us?
In many countries – and if you live in Sweden this obviously does not include you – more than 20% of landfill waste is made up from concrete, rubble and wood as construction waste. With so much of this able to be recycled and re-used, what is stopping communities from more easily turning junk into reprocessed?
Research shows we can reuse and recycle materials removed from demolition and construction sites if:
- There are local recycling facilities. It seems there is only so many miles people want to drive to recycle.
- There is a market demand for the recyclable products.
- People in those communities actually care enough about their environment.
- There is a less pressure on how quickly an area needs to be cleared of junk and waste.
- The quality and condition of materials is of a high enough standard.
What’s reusable or recyclable?
Most people in the construction and site waste or junk removal industries know what can or can’t be recycled, but are often under too much pressure in terms of time, money and mind-set to have a sustainable waste removal model in place. If you are paying someone to build, renovate or remove, ask them what they do with the waste, and if it goes straight to landfill consider hiring someone more environmentally friendly.
We all know what to recycle in terms of household waste, but what materials can generally be recycled from construction site?
- Anything steel – reinforcing, wire, containers, etc.
- Concrete. This can be broken down and recycled as base course in driveways and footpaths.
- Grade 1 and 2 plastic
- All cardboard and paper.
- Old untreated timber or untreated wood off-cuts. These can be mulched or used as firewood.
- Treated timber products that can be reused including hardwood flooring, truss joists, laminated beams, weatherboards and stairs.
- Topsoil, especially where construction work is talking place on land that was used for farming.
- Paint. Quite a few companies will take back unused paint and empty paint containers.
- Vegetation including trees and shrubs, especially if it is native.
- Terracotta tiles, electrical wiring and fittings, wool carpets.
- Thermal insulation, plumbing fixtures and doors and windows.
- A big range of metals including zinc roofing, interior metal wall studs, cast iron, aluminium, copper including flashings, spouting, claddings and pipework.
Dumping or sending this type of waste to landfill is unnecessary. By sorting construction site waste and having a plan in place to get it to the right repurposing facilities landfills and cleanfills will be under far less pressure, and besides what it will do for the environment it will actually save on the cost of a construction project.
It all adds up
Just looking at the costs of dealing with construction waste alone we need to take into consideration how it is affecting our wallets and the environment.
These tangible costs include:
- Limited reuse of landfill sites due to potential health hazards. Any limited availability of new landfill sites.
- The energy needed and used during waste transportation.
- How the land, air and water is polluted from heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
- Greenhouse gas emission.
- Constant depletion of limited natural resources.
- The cost of operating and maintaining landfill and cleanfill sites.
- Losing money from not selling on salvaged re-usable materials.
So what’s to be done?
Support local businesses who collect waste and then actively recycle or reuse it, or who have an environmental impact plan in place. There is no point harping on about how we all need to be more environmentally aware and then turning a blind eye to what happens to our waste. There are businesses out there committed to going green and we need to support their efforts.
Some companies make collecting and removing waste stress-free and they do whatever they can to recycle and reuse, and some companies make collecting and removing waste stress-free and just send it to landfill. Make sure you know where your waste is going. A good way to do this is to find a local provider that is green-rated or accredited by a local council or awarded accreditation such as an international ECO Warranty Certificate. You may be surprised at how few there are.
My name is Alison Hefer, I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa but I have spent the last few years in beautiful New Zealand. I write articles for various lifestyle websites including Junkrun.co.nz and regularly contribute articles about the always changing world of SEO to Clickthrough.co.nz. I am a busy blogger/mom by day and avid writer by night. My career goal is to one day write a novel of my own.
Connect with me via email at [email protected].