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Reducing Waste Advice

How to reduce waste on site

Whether you’re concerned about your carbon footprint or you’re a climate change sceptic, there’s a tonne of benefits of reducing how many tonnes of waste you produce on site. From saving money, to making your life easier – read on to find out how.

What can I recycle?

There’s a lot more recyclable materials on site than you’d think, this includes cardboard, paper and plastics as you’d expect, but also more surprising things like wood, concrete and gravel. Materials that can usually be recycled are:

• Cardboard
• Most plastics
• Paper
• Untreated wood
• Plasterboard
• Metal
• Gravel (and other aggregates)
• Drywall
• Some carpets
• Some paint and varnish
• Steel
• Soil
• Roofing shingles

If you’re working on a home renovation and need to clear out some larger household items – you’ll find that many can be taken to local recycling centres, such as:

• Electrical home and garden tools
• Electric cookers and ovens
• Kitchen appliances - fridges, freezers, washing machines and tumble dryers
• Window glass
• Furniture (upholstered and non-upholstered)

It’s worth checking with your local recycling centre as what they accept will vary. Or even better, use this online tool – just select the materials you want to recycle, pop in your postcode, and it will tell you all the centres near you that will take those items.

What can’t be recycled

There is of course some building site materials that can’t be recycled, including varnished, painted or treated wood and broken or sharp glass, but one of the biggest causes of on-site waste may surprise you - your lunch break could be generating more unrecyclable waste than the building materials you’re using.

Most materials that you purchase meals, lunches and drinks in can’t be recycled, including:

• Polystyrene packaging and containers
• Plastic utensils
• Drinking cups such as paper coffee cups
• Some plastic carrier bags
• Cling films
• Crisp packets and chocolate wrappers

Some simple solutions for reducing lunch waste include taking your own reusable travel mug or flask to coffee shops - not only will it keep your drink warm for longer, but many places will offer a small discount. Making your own packed lunch and taking it with you in a reusable lunch box (another great way to save money as buying lunches every day soon adds up), and if you can’t avoid getting a burger or bacon sandwich from the food van or chip shop (who can blame you?), take an empty lunch box with you and ask them to load the food into there, to avoid using up wrapping and polystyrene containers.

Benefits of recycling

Waste and climate change has been debated among scientists and politicians for decades, but it’s only in recent years that the public has begun to demand change from the government and large businesses.

You’ll have seen on the news that cutting down on the amount of waste you produce will no doubt limit damage to the environment, but did you know it could also limit the damage to your wallet?

The financial reasons to cut down on waste:
• Limiting leftover materials will reduce the amount you spend on materials you won’t use
• Waste costs money to store, transport and dispose of
• Extra waste means extra labour costs for handling
• Disposal charges are higher for non-recyclable items
• Landfill tax is increasing each year to discourage waste

Here’s a round-up of our top tips for limiting waste

• Take a travel mug to coffee shops
• Fill a flask with coffee or tea at the start of the day (and if your clients offer to refill it for you, bonus!)
• Take a packed lunch in a lunch box
• Avoid takeaways and fast food vans (or take an empty lunch box with you)
• If you don’t have a lunch box, reuse leftover plastic takeaway containers
• Take your own utensils to avoid using plastic ones, or if you have loads of leftover plastic knives, forks and spoons, give them a wash and reuse them for as long as possible before disposing of them
• Avoid crisps and chocolate bars as much as possible as the packaging usually can’t be recycled
• Try to make sure any glass is cut cleanly and not broken so that leftover pieces can be recycled
• Check with your local recycling centre here to see what materials you can recycle
• Work out what can be reused and how at the beginning of your project - for example if you’ll have a lot of wood offcuts, is there another project you’ll be working on where they’ll come in handy?
• Connect with other tradespeople in the local area to swap off-cuts and leftover materials – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
• Reduce the amount of petrol/diesel you use by sharing lifts and planning the journeys you take ahead to get as much as you can in one trip
• If you need to use gloves, invest in some quality reusable ones
• Avoid removing the protective packaging from materials before you need to use them so they aren’t accidentally damaged and wasted
• Repair items such as pallets so that they can be reused or returned
• Collect any unused and salvaged material from site and return, sell or donate them if possible
• Collect all plastic packaging and store somewhere safe to keep clean and dry for recycling
• Order bespoke materials to the exact specification that you need where possible to avoid cut-offs and leftover materials
• Attempt to salvage as many materials as possible during projects such as remodels. You may be able to repurpose it for future projects, sell it to someone else or donate it


Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is intended as an overall introduction and is not intended as specific advice from a qualified professional. Travis Perkins aims to avoid, but accepts no liability, in the case that any information stated is out of date.