“Improving construction quality can help tackle the construction waste problem” says Nick Ribbons of Zero Waste Scotland

Nick Ribbons presenting at the CQIC launch

In his presentation to the joint meeting of CQIC and GIRI in February 2023, which marked the launch of the CQIC initiative, Nick Ribbons, Partner – Construction at Zero Waste Scotland, highlighted the problem of waste generated by the construction sector in Scotland. Failures in quality of construction make a significant contribution to the waste generated from construction related activities, which amounts to a staggering 50% of Scotland’s waste. To address this issue head on, Zero Waste Scotland has launched a Site Waste Reduction Protocol. The article below explains further the construction waste problem and why action is needed to address the issue.

  • Zero Waste Scotland’s Site Waste Reduction Protocol is designed by industry specialists
  • The excel-based calculator tool is specifically designed to tackle material waste in construction
  • Evidence shows that by reducing wasteful consumption and making construction more circular we could reduce Scotland’s overall material use by 11.2% and its carbon footprint by 11.5%

Scotland will not be able to transition to a circular economy without sweeping changes in the built environment and construction sector, according to Zero Waste Scotland’s Circularity Gap Report. The study shows that the built environment, which currently contributes over 50% of Scotland’s overall waste, is an essential pillar in moving to a circular economy, and that reusing materials and reducing waste on site are major areas for concern.

This call to action for the industry comes at the same time as Zero Waste Scotland launches a tool to make one of those key actions – reducing site waste –

easier to carry out, measure and quantify. The Site Waste Reduction Protocol will help construction professionals accurately measure and classify site waste, identify what it has cost the business in terms of cash and help take steps to prevent those losses for a more profitable and sustainable business.

The newly published Circularity Gap Report sets out in detail why that is so important for Scotland’s economy. The report shows that only 1.3% of the resources Scotland uses are cycled back into the economy, with over 98.7% of Scotland’s material use coming from virgin resources. This is in addition to Scotland’s per capita material footprint being nearly double the global average. However, by making construction more efficient in the use of materials and resources, using housing more efficiently and giving materials a longer life, we could reduce Scotland’s overall material use by 11.2% and reduce its carbon footprint by 11.5%.

The big wins for the construction sector are in keeping materials in use for longer through more modular building design and designing materials to be easy to disassemble and re-use, and also in reducing the huge volumes of wasted materials that occur, often through failures in quality and re-work.

The Site Waste Reduction Protocol is specifically designed to tackle the issue and consists of an Excel-based calculator tool designed by industry specialists, that helps site staff record and quantify everything that is being wasted. The protocol itself is a method for how to best use the calculator for accurate results, which includes guidance on monitoring skips, estimating quantities and classifying material types. Once you have collected enough data, the calculator can produce reports that show what types of materials are not being wasted most often, how much these have cost the business and gives the data needed to calculate how much this is adding to the carbon footprint of your business.

Zero Waste Scotland’s Stephen Boyle also commented: “The Circular Gap Report shows us in no certain terms how much of a problem material waste is for the construction sector, but it can be hard to know where to start in tackling it effectively. The Site Waste Reduction Protocol sets out a simple and robust method for getting a comprehensive picture of what materials are being wasted and where, and which ones are costing you the most financially and environmentally. This allows construction professionals to target action on specific materials, and do it based on their either financial or environmental priorities.”

Getting work right first time can make a significant contribution to the reduction in waste generated during construction. That makes sense from both a financial and an environmental point of view.