Have you ever wondered why recycling counts as an individual responsibility and not one of the tasks of an engineer or a construction management company?
Recycling, which comes under waste management, is as important as material selection, design planning or cost budgeting. To recycle is to save materials from ending up at a landfill by processing and producing them as a new product to serve a new purpose. Recycling wastes essentially impacts two factors which are; i) The environment, given its impact in short & long terms, and ii) The economy, given the man-hours and capital required to deal with the wastes.
“Waste production is an investment that needs to be returned… we seem to have lost the potential to benefit from it as a life-long revenue.”
(E.Hebel, H.Wisniewska and Heisal, 2014)
Designing, procurement, handling, material source, etc. contribute to waste in the construction industry. The first step towards recycling is the collection and segregation of waste. The intent to recycle inspires the idea of prior planning, i.e. what happens before a product is produced (consumed). This can be achieved by reducing raw material consumption and production, packaging and transport efficiency.
Linear Economy to Circular Economy
From the extraction of raw materials to the production and delivery of goods, the path in construction industry follows is predominantly linear. Also known as ‘Take, Make and Waste’, a linear economy highly depends on endless (regenerative) earth resources. With such an approach, the potential of waste substances as a source worthy of the nation’s economy is left unknown. The idea to recycle and repurpose comes when the outcome of our consumption is treated as another resource. The above point is basically what a circular economy advocates. The circular economy aims to repeat the cycle from where it all started, ultimately leaving with the least waste or no waste. Besides the Reuse, Reduce, and Recycling of waste, circular paves the way for creative methods dealing with daily life, let alone in the construction industry.
Author Heather Roger’s book Gone tomorrow investigates and questions the whereabouts of waste after it is disposed of. In her book, Heather states that throwing things is an unsustainable habit, similar to the ‘to nib in the bud approach’. The Indian culture can be cited as a humble example of a sustainable approach. The ingrown habit of bringing cloth bags for grocery shopping, using old fabrics as dusting cloth, reusing glass bottles in commercial shops, etc., adhere to less waste residual. (vice, 2019)
Check out this article to know how some lifestyle changes can go a long way! https://shopvirtueandvice.com/blogs/conscious-shopping/zero-waste-india-plastic-free
Recycling in the Construction Industry
Construction Industry is one of the sole contributors to waste production pollution. An average home construction produces roughly 8,000 pounds (3600 kg) of waste in developed countries (Desai, 2020). Recycling in architecture can have two approaches; One, to use a recycled product as a building element, and two, to reuse the construction waste back into another construction. Regarding the first approach, recycled materials can be engineered per the requirement. Many of these materials may be non-conventional building materials, from textile scraps to plastic and rubber wastes. Whereas the used bricks, masonry waste and concrete from demolition, can be reused as crushed concrete aggregate by replacing natural aggregates. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals like aluminium, copper, and lead can be recycled multiple times. (Gopal Mishra, 2013)
Resources can be fully recycled till the end of their life when architects, engineers, manufacturers and active stakeholders come together to design and manage buildings keeping their disassembly in mind. (Peri, 2021). There are numerous benefits of recycling construction debris. Selling the saleable junk and donating waste is more affordable than dumping it in landfills. Reusing the construction waste in another project can reduce the overall cost of new ones, eventually attracting potential clients. Last but not least, you have done your job as a responsible citizen!
The building of SOS children’s village Chicago went sustainable while reducing costs and enhancing aesthetics, starting with its strata wall. The wall noticed at the entrance facade was built with a variety of concrete mixes layered horizontally, one above another, making it look like waves.
Cities are planned for faster transport and accessibility, yet something which is left out is the treatment of waste. At the end of the lane, the faster the city, the greater the pace of waste production. It is essential to think about the life of a material when it is acquired. This first thought can influence the approach of a project, be it from the point of stakeholders, engineers or designers, or even the clients. E.g. a project starts with client requirements and the primary materials, both of which are potential factors that define the framework of the structure. This starts with a simple initiative by the decision-makers.
- E.Hebel, D., H.Wisniewska, M. and Heisal, F. (2014). Building from waste by Birkhäuser – Issuu. [online] issuu.com. Available at: https://issuu.com/birkhauser.ch/docs/building_from_waste [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
- Hillebrandt, A., Riegler-Floors, P., Rosen, A. and Seggewies, J.-K. (2019). Manual of Recycling by DETAIL – Issuu. [online] issuu.com. Available at: https://issuu.com/detail-magazine/docs/978-3-95553-492-9_bk_manual_of_recycling_en_2019 [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
- Kuscu, S. (2021). Circular Economy in the Construction Industry: Advantages and Challenges of Concrete Recycling. [online] www.linkedin.com. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/circular-economy-construction-industry-advantages-challenges-ku%C5%9Fcu/?trk=public_profile_article_view [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
- Gopal Mishra (2013). CONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLING. [online] The Constructor. Available at: https://theconstructor.org/concrete/construction-waste-recycling/1088/.
- Desai, M. (2020). Tips to Reduce Construction Waste On Your Site. [online] gharpedia.com. Available at: https://gharpedia.com/blog/reduce-construction-waste-on-site/ [Accessed 3 Dec. 2022].
- Peri, S. (2021). Circular Economy: Construction and Demolition waste ~ Where do I go? [online] Medium. Available at: https://sunandaperi123.medium.com/circular-economy-construction-and-demolition-waste-where-do-i-go-5bbec3013b68 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2022].