Ecolabel to develop construction and demolition waste specification

For Environmental Choice New Zealand

The New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust has begun developing an ecolabel specification for construction and demolition (C&D) waste management to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

The Trust administers the Environmental Choice New Zealand (ECNZ) ecolabel on behalf of the Government, and the specification will form the basis of an ECNZ licence that waste management organisations can apply for, to prove their C&D waste disposal processes are environmentally preferable. Development of the specification has been made possible through a $35,000 grant from Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund.

Trust General Manager Francesca Lipscombe says the specification will enable procurers of C&D waste services to differentiate service providers in terms of environmental impact. “It will recognise top performers.”

The Trust decided to develop the specification following a feasibility study in March 2017 which found the most significant issue around C&D waste was simply the amount that went into landfills rather than being reused. A Ministry for the Environment survey in 2008 found that 75% of the waste in municipal landfills could have been diverted; the MfE also estimated around 700,000 tonnes of C&D waste ended up in landfills in 2011.

Ms Lipscombe says the Trust wants to help address the growing issue of C&D waste by developing a specification that encourages waste minimisation and resource recovery. “The specification will recognise C&D waste service providers who reliably demonstrate great practices around waste minimisation, from waste reduction through recovery, reuse and recycling.”

She says the Trust took its proposal for a C&D waste specification to the WasteMINZ conference in late 2017 and subsequently met with a number of key stakeholders to discuss the idea.  “The feedback we got was that there was definitely a gap in the waste services market for an independently verified label of good performance. There was an appetite for it, and Environmental Choice was seen as the right vehicle.”

Ms Lipscombe commended Auckland Council for supporting the development of the specification. “The Council’s grant will be crucial to the successful completion of the specification.  We are a not-for-profit organisation and without this funding we would not have been able to advance this initiative.” The New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC), WasteMINZ and the Sustainable Business Network are also supportive of the specification.

Ms Lipscombe says development of the specification is likely to take 6-12 months and will involve consultation with existing service providers, waste service procurers and waste industry groups.

“Our goal is to deliver a powerful ecolabel for C&D waste services that is well respected and sought after, that answers a real need in the market, that encourages innovation in the waste area, and that drives positive change.”

The specification, which will cover both domestic and commercial construction and demolition waste, will include best practice criteria for waste management on site, transportation, sorting and processing, recovery, reuse and disposal. Licensed organisations will be required to report, in particular, on measures of success in diverting waste from landfill, and to promote innovation, criteria will recognise excellence in waste minimisation planning says Ms Lipscombe.

Under the Auckland Council grant, the project will initially focus on the Auckland Region but Ms Lipscombe expected the specification would eventually be applicable nationally.

Auckland Council’s Programme Director for Waste Solutions, Parul Sood, says the ecolabel specification is a much-needed tool in the waste minimisation toolkit for Auckland’s construction and demolition industry. “C&D waste accounts for around half of all waste to landfill in Auckland – that’s about 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes per year.  With the increase in development and infrastructure projects across the region, which is only set to continue, having the ecolabel specification available will help to increase the diversion of useful materials currently going to landfill.  This has major benefits for the economy, the community, and the environment.”

Ms Sood says a typical new house build produces around five tonnes of waste.  “AUT research suggests that equates to almost $30,000 worth of materials.  We’d like to see these materials re-entering the economy and being re-used and re-purposed.  Similarly, building demolition results in many perfectly usable materials, fixtures, and fittings being crushed and landfilled.  There are opportunities for those materials to be salvaged and recovered for the benefit of community-based organisations or other enterprises.”

Ms Sood says the Trust’s initiative will help to activate and support a shift in current building practice and increase interest and awareness of waste minimisation and diversion for the construction sector, as well as driving adoption of deconstruction and soft strip methods within the demolition industry.  “With Auckland’s goal of becoming a Zero Waste City by 2040, we’re proud to support the project as part of our efforts to cut back on the amount of C&D waste.”

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