Is it time to ditch the skip on construction sites?

Have you ever looked at all the plastic wrapped around houses being built and wondered how it is disposed of when the building is finished? Did you know Auckland’s construction and demolition (C&D) sector is sending the equivalent of around 26,615 shipping containers of rubbish to landfill?

Thanks to pioneering construction waste-warriors Unitec, Naylor Love, Auckland Council, Green Gorilla and Nigel Benton, Hamilton company saveBOARD can now recycle 90% of soft plastic wastes on-site back into reusable building products.

The construction industry is one of New Zealand’s biggest waste to landfill contributors, but upcycling company saveBOARD provides an innovative solution that diverts soft plastic waste from landfill by recycling it into high-performance building materials.

In 2021 a comprehensive waste trial led by Unitec’s Environmental Solutions Research Centre’s Associate Professor Terri-Ann Berry along with construction company Naylor Love and Auckland Council collected and audited plastic waste to see where it was coming from and what could be reused and recycled.  

“This work is important as C&D waste accounts for a high proportion of the waste that goes into landfill in most countries,” says Associate Professor Berry.

After learning that some plastic can take over 500 years to decompose, Naylor Love was adamant something needed to change, so it contacted saveBOARD, making it one of the first construction companies to ditch the skip in favour of soft plastic collection bins.

“After the trial, we knew we had to do better,” explains Naylor Love Environmental Manager Annie Day. “We had heard of saveBOARD and knew they were opening a plant in Hamilton so we were talking to them before the machinery had even arrived in the country.”

Like many other building companies, Naylor Love was affected by pandemic-related supply chain issues, resulting in a building materials shortage. 

“We were already going through a recession with timber products and a lack of plywood, which we use for hoardings around our sites. We started putting big one cubic metre bags on site to collect the soft plastics and send them to saveBOARD to be remanufactured in to sheets we use as hoardings,” she says.

Naylor Love partnered with waste management company Green Gorilla to trial the logistics of collecting soft plastics from three of its Auckland sites and deliver it to saveBOARD in Hamilton, who would then use the plastic to manufacture their innovative construction board products.  

Ms Day says after the trial they were stunned at how much plastic waste from the site ended up in landfill.

“The trial showed we sent approximately 340kg of plastic waste to landfill from our trial site.

It was an eye-opener – we had no idea that much was going to landfill. It would be a perfect world if we didn’t have any plastic waste to deal with but until this happens, we need to find waste partners that can recycle it.”

She said less waste, reduced carbon emissions and a better future is what construction companies are signing up to by partnering with saveBOARD.

Naylor Love now uses saveBOARD for site hoardings, replacing plywood. It has an equivalent cost to plywood and the best thing is that it can be recycled back into new boards – closing the loop and making soft plastics a circular economy.

Ms Day says Naylor Love has partnered with Green Gorilla, which delivers bags of soft plastics from the building sites to saveBOARD.

“Each bag weighs approximately 120kg and it’s a great feeling to know you have diverted it from landfill. To make recycling work, we need people, businesses and government to purchase products made with locally sourced recycled content to close the loop.”

Auckland property developer Nigel Benton was also part of the trial and was stunned by how much plastic is used on sites.

“We were able to repurpose 91% of all construction waste from one site,” Mr Benton said. “There was a mega amount of plastic used.”

These pioneers are on a mission to reduce plastic waste on site and educate construction companies around New Zealand about the volume of waste heading to landfill from the skip bin.

Is your company ready to ditch the skip?

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