Models that help manage the waste issue
Avoid, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
The Master Builders Association together with the WA Waste Authority has produced a publication that assists the construction industry in reducing waste called Smart Waste Guide. The increase in landfill levies in July 2014 provide a financial incentive to be smart about waste. It is recommended that as a builder or subcontractor you follow the following four steps to reduce the amount of waste created on your project:
AVOID – waste by careful planning at the design, drawing and documentation stages. It is at this stage that the greatest reductions in waste can be achieved.
REDUCE – by limiting waste when purchasing.
REUSE – by finding available recycled materials from demolition works, civil works, suppliers or nearby locations, especially sand.
RECYCLE – by implementing a waste management plan, incorporating bins and any space on your site drawings.
Cradle-to-Cradle and Life Cycle Assessment
Cradle-to-Cradle and product life cycle assessment are systematic approaches to encourage source reduction. Compare this to conventional waste management which is designed as if waste emerged out of nowhere, with no connection to previous actions and decisions, except those of the final consumer. Of course, as consumers we can try to educate ourselves and try to do the right thing. Reality is though that most of a product’s life history remains largely unknown to us and unaccounted for by our economy.
The TED talk by Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough is well worth watching. He champions “cradle to cradle” design, which considers a product’s full life cycle – from creation with sustainable materials to a recycled afterlife. He asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “all children, all species, for all time. Architect William McDonough believes green design can prevent environmental disaster and drive economic growth.”
Life cycle assessment is a comprehensive method that assesses every single impact associated with all stages of a product or process over its entire life span. The Green Swing, for its development projects, engages the services of eTool to perform a life cycle assessment.
For the built environment, life cycle assessment allows us to measure the the environmental impact of the design from types of materials, how they are transported and assembled to their performance, how long they last and whether they can be recycled after use. By consciously selecting this way, we begin to understand how much carbon is used in the design of our buildings and can improve our impact and reduce emissions.
Life cycle assessment is also a great way to determine the cost of a building over its design life and manage a long term investment based on how well the building, technology and systems will perform, when they will need to be replaced and the overall payback period.
Waste Management at Home
Being aware of waste is very much a part of our day-to-day lives. The same principles of Avoid-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, Cradle-to-Cradle and Life Cycle analysis apply.
Avoid – Reduce – Reuse
Avoid, Reduce and Reuse offer the greatest opportunities for eliminating pollution and depletion of natural resources. Only buy what you need is a great starting point. Yet, we seem to have focused most of our efforts at recycling and recovery. A lot less has been done to promote resource reduction or material re-use. Why is that? Maybe it is because reduction and re-use are often perceived to be at odds with economic development. As consumers we are encouraged to buy more, not less. For this to change, a paradigm shift may be required in perceptions of wealth, economic development and quality of life, or, at the very least, a more comprehensive means of measuring costs and benefits. What difference would it make if producers were responsible for the burden of disposal and diversion? Faced with reclamation they would be encouraged to and have a stake in finding alternatives. They would re-think how stuff was made if they were made responsible for their products during its full life-cycle. Challenges such as Plastic Free July definitely make you aware how wasteful we are with our resources.
Recycling has become part of our daily lives in the last decade or so. The yellow recycling bins are a familiar sight in most council areas, kids are being taught about recycling at school, bins to recycle batteries can be found in most shopping centers, and there are drop of points to recycle mobile phones and printer ink cartridges. Mobile Muster, the official recycling body for the Australian Mobile phone industry claims that over 90% of the materials in mobile phones can be recovered and used as raw materials for new products. To increase the amount of recycling and recovery, it is important to create strong and reliable markets for recycled products; it is key to completing the recycling process and closing the loop. Do you buy products made from recycled materials?
Food waste is often seen as a separate component of waste management, however the same principles apply. Data collated by environmental lobby group Do Something! shows that across Australia, about 4.45 million tonnes of food, worth $7.8 billion, is discarded annually. This is an average of between $500 and $1,000 per household per year and definitely an easy way to save money! We use several systems for our food scraps, including composting, worm farms and bokashi bins. And if you are lucky enough to have a big back yard and a supportive council, chooks would be wonderful too. There are a lot of people that can give you hints and tips on how to get started or your local community garden may run a workshop. Enjoy the learning experience!