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CABLOFIL - Are You Wasting The Opportunity To Save Costs And Safeguard Your Reputation?

Tim Brown, national sales manager of steel wire cable containment specialist, Cablofil, discusses the issue of waste on building sites and argues the case for adopting a more methodical and integrated approach to tackling the problem.

On a domestic level the UK has done much to embrace the need to reduce our consumption of the world’s resources over the past few years, with households showing an increasing willingness to opt for less packaging, choose more sustainable products and recycle as much as possible. It’s hardly surprising: global warming is a media hot topic and a political hot potato, ensuring that everyone is aware that they have an individual responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint by using less and recycling more. What is surprising, is that the construction industry has not embraced the issue of waste with anything like as much efficiency or enthusiasm, despite the fact that it is not only legally required of construction contractors to have a waste management plan in place but also commercially prudent for them to keep waste to a minimum.

Introduced in April 2008, Site Waste Management Plans Regulations required anyone planning a construction project to the value of £30,000 or greater to put a waste management plan in place. This plan must identify the types and quantities of waste anticipated for the build as well as detailing how the waste will be disposed of. Importantly, the plan is not simply a tick box exercise at the beginning of a construction programme, it must be updated every time waste is removed from site, which should clearly flag up any problems with excessive amounts or unexpected increases in waste. In theory, then, this legislation should have helped to reduce the amount of building site waste being sent to our over-stretched landfill sites; unfortunately, however, the problem persists. All too often, the waste management plan is viewed as an admin hoop that must be jumped through rather than an opportunity to approach construction in a more environmentally sound, sustainable manner. Rather than using it as a strategic basis for making more accurate and sustainable purchasing decisions, contractors often simply use it to document the waste that has been produced.

Much of the problem lies in a cultural tendency to over-order on a just-in-case or guess-timate basis, in order to avoid costly delays on site. In a sector where time really is money at a time when contracts are scarce and programmes are demanding, this is understandable. A more efficient approach, however, is for contractors to share the responsibility for accurate ordering with their suppliers, who should be able to help them estimate the actual amount of materials needed more accurately and deliver it to site on a just-in-time basis. Suppliers can help with this not only by offering technical support to help with specification and quantities but also by ensuring that their supply chain can provide a fast turnaround on orders, as this removes any anxiety about potential delays caused by under-ordering. In some cases there may be other help available from suppliers too: Cablofil, for example, has devised a free online software tool, Cablosoft, to help contractors accurately determine how much Cablofil product they will actually need to complete the job and receive an accurate estimate.

More accurate purchasing is key to addressing the problem of wasted materials on site but in order to truly tackle the problem in a holistic way, contractors must not only consider quantities but also think about the type of products used and the type and amount of packaging in which they arrive on site. Just as on a domestic scale the issue of plastic bags and supermarket packaging has come under the media spotlight, so too must the packing used to deliver construction materials to site. Again, suppliers can help by reducing unnecessary packaging or offering contractors the option of less packaging, which will reduce costs for both parties. This change will only happen on any significant scale, however, if contractors challenge suppliers to reduce packaging levels and the same is true of sustainable and recyclable products. The more demand increases for sustainable materials and materials that can be recycled rather than going to landfill, the more the marketplace will respond to that demand with more environmentally sound choices. While, in some cases, ‘environmentally friendly’ credentials put a premium on the price tag, many products are more environmentally friendly than their competitors regardless of whether eco credentials are amongst their defined USPs. The Cablofil system is a case in point – it uses less steel than perforated steel tray, is re-useable and recyclable: none of these attributes may be part the main specification criteria but they should be factored in to purchasing decisions as part of a cohesive approach to waste management.

It’s important to remember too that, though smarter purchasing decisions are key to addressing the issue of waste on site, careful management and monitoring of site waste throughout a build is also essential if waste management is really going to become part of the industry’s culture. Only by monitoring the waste on site during the programme can any issues be addressed by recycling, for example, or reducing an order that has yet to be delivered. Sadly, materials that could be recycled or re-used are often simply sent to landfill as waste, which not only adds to the build’s overheads but is costly to the environment too.... and completely avoidable!

When the key pressures on site revolve around finishing on time, to standard and within budget, ‘softer’ issues like waste management are often overlooked. But perception of effective waste management as a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a necessity needs to change, particularly in today’s economic climate where managing costs on site is so clearly under the spotlight. Managing waste effectively not only saves time, purchasing costs and waste disposal costs, it also demonstrates a quality approach to project management and a focus on environmental responsibilities, both of which can enhance a contractor’s reputation and help them stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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Hill Farm, Linton Hill, Maidstone, Kent ME 17 4AL
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