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Firms sign up to halve construction waste

Major contractors and industry bodies were this week poised to commit to cutting construction waste in a move that mirrors shops like Tesco's pledge to cut excessive product packaging.

The Government aims to halve construction waste, which accounts for one third of total annual UK waste by weight, by 2012 and is now going to firms and industry bodies in a plea to help it meet its aspirational target.

Waste quango, the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP), has been consulting on plans to launch a construction waste commitment in the autumn.

Industry bodies including the Major Contractors Group (MCG), Construction Confederation and British Property Federation are working with WRAP to develop the terms of the commitment, with several major firms ready to sign up.

WRAP head of construction Mike Watson said that the introduction on 6 April of compulsory Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) for projects valued above £300,000 has forced contractors to record their waste, and a commitment to cut it was the logical next step.

"The benefit of signing a public commitment to cut waste is that it obviously demonstrates corporate responsibility," said Watson.

"But it will also help drive down companies' costs as the price of waste through landfill tax and gate fees continues to rise."

Watson added that the commitment would see firms set their own target for reducing waste. WRAP had yet to agree with the MCG whether the targets would be set according to volume or to weight, but they would be measured using recognisable standards.

"The targets will use established key performance indicators given by Constructing Excellence, such as waste arisings per £100,000 spent," said Watson.

The construction waste commitment follows two similar sector-wide promises to cut waste: the first, known as the Courtauld Commitment, was signed by grocery retailers in July 2005 which agreed to fund solutions and technologies that would cut the amount of packaging waste; the second saw utility firms sign an agreement on 1 April to cut the 2.4M tonnes of trench arisings that they and their contractors send to landfill sites annually.

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