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Norfolk sites waste no time

Norfolk County Council is achieving cost savings of 1.5% simply by managing construction waste better. Other local authorities are taking notice.

Norfolk County Council has responded to the legislation by treating it as an opportunity rather than a burden. It is demanding a site waste management plan for every project it undertakes, regardless of size.

Over the course of the last year the results have been dramatic, reports Mark Sexton, project manager for Norfolk's waste management plan.

The council has formed a partnership with Mott MacDonald and contractor May Gurney, which together deliver all of the council's capital and maintenance projects. Norfolk has pioneered its waste management strategy on highways projects, where it is saving between £200,000 and £300,000 per year on a total roads budget of £60M.

"We generate well in excess of 80,000t of waste from highways works each year," Sexton says. "Virtually all of that has the potential to be reused or recycled, but until recently 40,000t–45,000t went to landfill.

Next spring it will become mandatory for every UK construction project valued at £250,000 or more to produce a site waste management plan. They are voluntary at present.

"We have found that some waste is reusable in its original form – we have worked with the Environment Agency on the reclassification of materials, which has enabled us to avoid sending particular types of material to tip. If material can be reused without being processed it is not classed as waste at all, so it is possible to reuse soils, for example.

"Then there is concrete and asphalt," says Mott MacDonald environmental scientist Emma Maltby. "They can be crushed and recycled as sub-base material for road construction. That reduces the need for imported aggregate."

"Big chunks of waste concrete and asphalt have in the past been given to companies who have crushed them and then sold the reconditioned materials back to us," Sexton continues. "We've been buying back our own waste. We are now crushing material ourselves."

Money paid in landfill charges has been slashed. Transportation costs are down. Less virgin material is being ordered. And more care is being taken to order the correct materials in the right quantities.There is a perception in the construction industry that the cost of writing and implementing a site waste management plan is only recouped on larger projects – hence the £250,000 project value threshold set by the government. But Sexton says Norfolk's best saving to date has been on an £80,000 footpath, on which careful waste reduction cut the out-turn cost by 10%.

"On the other hand we have schemes where there's no direct financial saving but our environmental performance is improved," comments Sexton.

Implementing site waste management plans has improved the overall efficiency of project management, yielding total savings of between 1% and 1.5%. "That represents £600,000 to £900,000 saved on our highways budget. For local authorities who struggle to fund road
maintenance, that's a significant sum."

It is going so well that Norfolk even plans to open up its construction waste processing facilities to the private sector.WASTE FACTS

 Construction and demolition generate 120Mt of waste per year, a third of UK total.
 Planning applications will hinge on the strength of a site waste management plan.
 Developers caught dodging their waste management obligations by fly-tipping or passing a hazardous material off as non-hazardous waste will be liable to Increasingly severe fines, which those responsible facing possible prison sentences.
 Of all materials delivered to site, 13% go straight to tip due to over-ordering, damage resulting from poor storage, or because the materials ordered are inappropriate.
 Government wants to curb waste sent to landfill by requiring developers to set out plans for reuse, recycling and reduction, and to predict the types and volumes of each type of waste. Actual volumes produced will be compared against those anticipated.

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