Top 10 Tips for Minimising Landfill Costs [1-3]

10 May 2016 by Paul Cox

Is it ever possible to achieve zero landfill costs? If you follow these top tips, you could be well on the way...

The construction industry produces a third of the UK’s total waste every year, according to recent figures. That’s 120 million tonnes, of which 85% could be reduced, reused or recycled.

The waste hierarchy should be at the centre of every construction project, as the EU has long declared that landfill is the least preferable option and should be kept to the absolute minimum.

Reducing landfill costs requires a change of approach, from disposal to the ultimate goal of waste prevention, through the reuse and recycling of materials.

Investment in new technologies and advances in waste infrastructure are driving change. But the industry is still waiting for a major attitude shift, prompting calls for increased industry participation in the circular economy.

EU targets include:

  • Recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030
  • Reducing landfill to 10% of all waste by 2030
  • A ban on sending separately collected waste to landfill
  • Promoting and stimulating industrial symbiosis
  • Economic incentives for recycling.

Minimising the volume of waste you send to landfill will ultimately help to drive efficiency, financial performance and best practice. To help you with this we have prepared the following top tips...

Perform a ‘Waste Walkaround’...

A waste walkaround on an existing project can yield important insights for making improvements to your waste management processes. If you set out to secure a competitive advantage by forecasting costs, you will strengthen your business, and its reputation. Remember, reducing waste begins at the design stage of every project, and can deliver savings of 2% of the entire construction cost if you focus on the five most wasted components, according to WRAP guidance for project managers.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do we have a target for reducing landfill costs?
  • Are we effectively reusing materials on site?
  • Are we operating effective segregation of waste?
  • Is our SWMP or reporting template up to date?
  • How do we incentivise waste reduction?
  • Are we linking with other trades and businesses to reduce waste?

Think Circular...

The linear ‘make and waste’ model is out. In the circular economy, products are designed, manufactured, used and then reused. With reported EU savings of €630 million a year, more companies are coming onboard. In a construction setting, thinking circular means examining your processes and adopting waste hierarchy principles, starting with ‘prevention first’. Environmental and social impact is central, and companies are encouraged to report and support sustainability claims. The rewards include: reduced costs, improved value, enhanced social and environmental impacts and increased revenue streams from remarketing used or waste products.

Aim for:

  • Lean and safe processes
  • Cradle-to-cradle practices
  • Reusing and remarketing materials.

TIP: Thinking circular means examining current practices and making specific on-site improvements geared towards increasing the reuse and recycling of materials.

Go Back to the Drawing Board...

Early identification of waste reduction opportunities should start at the project planning stage. Aim to collate baseline values for:

  • Waste to landfill – tonnes per £100,000 construction cost
  • Waste generation, also in tonnes per £100,000
  • Waste recovery – percentage diverted from landfill
  • Recycled material – percentage recycled by value
  • The five most significant materials and waste streams.

Once you have these KPIs in place, you can set out your requirements in project briefs and pre-qualification questionnaires, and declare targets based on corporate objectives. In addition, draft a SWMP (or waste reporting brief for smaller projects) and consider:

  • Ordering standard sizes and quantities
  • Using off-site construction or prefabricated components
  • Planning ahead to reduce off-cuts and over-ordering
  • Using lean methodologies and software solutions to ‘design out’ waste
  • Streamlining deliveries and keeping materials in their packaging until needed
  • Checking storage areas to ensure they are safe, secure and weatherproof
  • Developing a forecast for waste, and identifying the most effective waste reduction actions.

TIP: Report on waste reduction actions at design review meetings.


  • The construction industry produces 120 million tonnes of waste every year, of which 85% could be reduced, reused or recycled.
  • A waste walkaround on an existing project can yield important insights for making improvements to your waste management processes.
  • You can start identifying waste reduction opportunities at the project planning stage.
  • A circular approach cuts down landfill costs, improves value, strengthens social and environmental impact and increases revenue streams from remarketing used or waste products.

Read 7 more great tips for minimising the cost of landfill by downloading our eGuide. Download: Top 10 Tips for Minimising the Cost of Landfill

Top 10 Tips for Minimising the Cost of Landfill