Avoid Landfill Tax by Embracing the Circular Economy in Construction

Discover how embracing the concept of the circular economy in your construction projects could help you avoid the impact of landfill tax increases and more.

In 2008 the construction and demolition industry was responsible for an estimated 25 million tonnes of landfill waste in England alone. Reducing this figure by 50%, by 2012, was one of the key targets of the Government’s Strategy for Sustainable Construction.
To accelerate progress towards this goal, from April 2011, the chancellor put a landfill tax escalator in place, with an annual landfill tax increase of £8 per tonne of waste until 2014.
In April 2015’s budget the landfill tax increase was in line with inflation, with the standard rate going up just £2.60 from £80 per tonne to £82.60 per tonne. There are still two landfill tax rates. The lower one, which applies to less polluting waste, including bricks, stone and concrete with small amounts of wood and plaster, went up this April by just 10p, from £2.50 to £2.60.
However, at a time when the construction industry is fast picking up pace and landfill sites are reaching capacity, it’s clear that a new approach to waste is needed.
Rethinking construction waste
The EU Waste Framework Directive set a target for 70% of construction, demolition and excavation waste to be recycled by 2020. Article 4 of the revised directive, released in 2008, introduced the concept of the waste hierarchy, which encourages us to look at waste from a completely new angle.
Inspired by this approach, construction professionals are now beginning to think differently, for example:

considering the ease of reusing materials at the end of a building’s useful life at the planning phase
incorporating reclaimed and recycled materials into new buildings and renovation projects
reusing materials that might otherwise go to waste, either on the same site or elsewhere
segregating waste on site to ensure the absolute minimum goes to landfill.

Working in this way improves operational efficiency and drives a positive attitude towards reuse, in contrast to the take, make and dispose culture that the conventional linear economy encourages.
The circular economy & inspired by nature
This shift in attitude towards waste is increasing awareness in the industry of a philosophy known as the circular economy.
The core principles include:

minimising the volume of waste created by taking a longer-term view
focusing on ways to harness the innate value of the waste that is generated.

If something can’t be reused as it is, can it be recycled? Alternatively can it be used as a resource or fuel to produce energy? This reflects the way the natural world works, with a web of interconnecting product lifecycles and nothing ultimately going to waste.
The concept of the circular economy was developed in the 1970s by John T Lyle and Walter Stahel, but has been revived more recently, championed by former sailor, Dame Ellen MacArthur.
Real economic benefits
Bearing the circular approach in mind when planning a project and designing your waste strategy will not only help to reduce the level of landfill tax and gate fees you pay, but could offer wider financial benefits for you and your clients. Here are a few examples of ideas to implement:

Considering ways to minimise waste at every stage of a project.
Sourcing reclaimed and recovered materials, such as recycled aggregates, which often works out cheaper.
Segregating different recyclable waste streams on site.
Using plasterboard offcuts for patching and completing small areas.
Reusing suitable brick and block hardcore waste on site
Saving excess materials to use for other projects.

So if you’re looking for ways to reduce your waste disposal costs, take some time out to consider how the circular economy approach could benefit your business, as well as the environment.

While the rate of landfill tax increase is levelling off, landfill sites are fast filling up and there is limited space available for more. It’s clear that we need to take a fresh approach to construction waste.
Taking the waste hierarchy into account when planning a project could help you minimise its environmental impact as well as bringing down the budget.
Think about specifying recycled materials, segregating recyclable waste streams and reusing materials where possible.
Remember that applying the principles of the circular economy to your construction projects could help you reap wider financial rewards than simply paying less landfill tax.

With the increase in legislation affecting the construction industry, are you aware of the impact failure to comply could have on your business? Read our handy guide & Producing a Circular Waste Strategy for Your Construction Supply Chain & A Best Practice Checklist.

Originally published 19 Apr 2016