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Simple circular waste management solutions can accelerate the greening of engineering and construction

Dec 29, 2023Dec 29, 2023

Worth more than £110bn per annum and contributing 7% of the United Kingdom's GDP, the construction industry accounts for approximately 3M jobs or 10% of total UK employment.

Nathan Gray is head of sustainability at Reconomy

But with great productivity comes great waste. The construction sector creates on estimate a third of the world's waste with 100 billion tonnes of raw material extracted per year.

As the world population is expected to grow steadily over the next three decades, our planet's resources will deplete beyond a level considered sustainable.

With this in mind, three products - recycling balers, compactors and roll packers, which can help construction firms embrace closed-loop recycling methods, represent a high-value investment.

Recycling balers enable users to get the best value from materials. A dedicated baler can be used to press and compact recyclables like cardboard, plastics and paper into bales. Balers provide clear fiscal benefits for businesses. Not only can they reduce the cost of storage space, handling and transport costs by compressing materials, they can also maximise the recyclable value of waste by compacting into neat, easily-transferrable piles.

Single-chamber balers are perfect for businesses with limited-space available but who generate medium to large volumes of waste. Meanwhile, multi-chamber bases are more suited to businesses that generate multiple recyclable waste streams. Finally, horizontal balers are a solution for managing very large volumes of recyclable waste and are capable of condensing a variety of materials – including waste plastics, paper and cardboard – into bales weighing up to 600kg.

Compactors enable waste to be compressed so that it can take up less storage space and requires fewer collections. As an alternative to traditional skips, these are also a means of collecting recyclable materials for onward processing in line with closed loop principles.

Compactors are typically split into two varieties: portable and static. Portable compactors are typically smaller in size and can be lifted onto a truck when full. Static compactors remain in place, bolted to a hard surface with a roll-off skip attached.

With waste on average costing between £160-£500 per tonne to dispose of, this could be a smart choice for businesses wanting to slash overheads while recycling materials back into circulation.

Finally, for serious, heavy-duty waste compaction, roll packers can reduce large waste volumes in open, metal cages. Constructed with large metal drum and spiked teeth, these are specifically designed for crushing bulky items and can pack waste into neat ‘rolls’ suitable for collection.

A well-chosen roll packer can reduce waste collections by 80%, supporting the environment and businesses’ bottom line.

The challenge for the construction sector is to move beyond simply recycling. To effectively operate in a sustainable fashion, businesses must also reuse and repurpose waste that would normally have no purpose beyond its original use.

Discarded plastic and other types of waste usually headed for landfill can be used to produce fuel, while equipment that has reached the end of its natural life can be broken up and its components reused elsewhere.

Any waste metals can then be sold off, returning a tidy profit and ensuring that nothing goes to waste.

In time, this has the potential to save resources for the business, avoiding the need to pay for the disposal of defunct equipment, a saving that can be offset against buying replacement equipment.

By investing in a few simple solutions, the engineering sector could make huge strides in supporting clear environmental gains and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

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Belinda Smart