Management of Construction Wastes

A wide variety of wastes are generated during construction projects which may be classified into four categories – excavated wastes, demolition wastes, construction wastes and mixed wastes. Construction wastes are also known Construction and Demolition (C&D) wastes. Excavated materials is made up of soil, sand, gravel, rock, asphalt, etc. while demolition wastes is comprised by  concrete, metal, roofing sheets, asbestos, brick, briquette, stone gypsum, wood material. Waste materials generated from construction activities are concrete, dry wall, plastics, ceramics tiles, metals, paper, cardboards, plastics, glass etc. In addition, mixed wastes, such as trash and organic wastes, are also produced in construction projects. A great way to get rid of all the construction waste is to hire a company that handles everything for you. For instance, if you need a south Philadelphia roll-off dumpster, you will find many options, make sure to select a reliable company that can offer you an excellent service and advises you along the way.

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Almost 90 percent of construction wastes are inert or non-hazardous, and can be reused, reclaimed and recycled and reused. The non-recyclable, non-hazardous and hazardous waste materials constitute the remaining 10 percent. The non-inert materials include trees, green vegetation, trash and other organic materials while and the hazardous construction waste materials include contaminated soil, left over paints, solvent, aerosol cans, asbestos, paint thinners, striping paint, contaminated empty containers.

Sustainable management of construction wastes uses number of strategies and is based on the typical waste hierarchy: Avoid/ eliminate, reduce, reuse, recycle, treat and dispose.

Avoidance / Source Reduction

Avoidance or source reduction is considered as the best strategy for waste management and is the most economic way to reduce waste and minimise the environmental impacts of construction wastes. This can be done by avoiding use of hazardous materials such as asbestos-containing materials or chromated copper arsenate treated timber or through green purchasing of materials. This includes purchasing of non-toxic materials, pre-cut timbers and ordering materials of desired dimensions.

Reuse

Although source reduction and elimination are preferred options in the waste management hierarchy, it is always not possible to do so. In this case consider reuse, donation and salvage options to companies or people who need those. Reuse option lengthens the life of a material. Reuse strategy can be used in two ways.

Building Reuse – It includes reusing materials from existing buildings and maintaining certain percentages of building structural and non-structural elements  such as interior walls, doors floor covering and ceilings.

Material Reuse – This is one of the most effective strategies for minimising environmental impacts which can be done by salvaging, refurbishing and reusing materials within the same building or in another building.

Many of the exterior and interior materials can be recovered from existing buildings and reused in new ones. Such materials will include steel, walls, floor coverings, concrete, beams and posts, door frames, cabinetry and furniture, brick, and decorative items. Reuse of materials and products will help to reduce the demand for virgin materials and reduce wastes.

Recycle

There is very good potential to recycle many elements of construction waste. Recycling involves collecting, reprocessing and/ or recovering certain waste materials to make new materials or products. Often roll-off containers are used to transport the waste. Rubble can be crushed and reused in construction projects.

Waste wood can also be recovered and recycled. Many construction waste materials that are still usable can be donated to non-profit organizations. This keeps the material out of the landfill and supports a good cause.

Treat and Dispose

This option should be considered after all other options are exhausted. The disposal of construction materials should be carried out in appropriate manner through an approved contractor. For examples, certain components of construction waste such as plasterboard are hazardous once landfilled. Plasterboard is broken down in landfill conditions releasing hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas.

Asbestos Related Illnesses in the Bioenergy Industry

When we think of asbestos, we usually picture old, condemned buildings filled with harmful asbestos-based insulation, but this isn’t always the case.

Since 1989, the use of asbestos has been banned in construction work in the UK and many buildings which contain this harmful substance, are being replaced or made safe.

While this is of course, good news, these buildings are not the only source of asbestos and in this article, we’ll be examining the rising cases of mesothelioma compensation claims by bioenergy industry employees.

Asbestos Related Illnesses in the Bioenergy Industry

What is Asbestos?

A naturally occurring substance, asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral made up of long, thin microscopic fibrous crystals.  When dormant, asbestos can be relatively harmless but, the danger occurs when fibrils are released into the atmosphere and inhaled by humans.

Inhalation of asbestos can lead to serious diseases such as COPD and mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer which is associated with asbestos and which is almost always terminal.

In recent years, concerns have been growing over the number of bio energy employees who have been diagnosed with this devastating disease

What is Bioenergy?

Bioenergy is the term used for the generation of gas and electricity which is renewable and which causes less harm to the planet’s resources than other, more traditional methods which use coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy.

Bioenergy methods use organic matter such as food waste to create a flexible energy source. Wet feedstocks like food and other organise material is placed into sealed tanks and allowed to rot. This creates methane gas which can then be collected and burned to generate electricity. Dry materials like wood pellets are also burned in a furnace to boil water, create steam and thereby generate electricity.

Although bioenergy does produce carbon dioxide and release it into the atmosphere, it does so only at the rate at which the organic matter absorbed the carbon dioxide while growing. This makes it greener and more sustainable.

Energy crops are grown in the UK specifically for the use of producing bio-energy. There are currently 1855 bioenergy plants in the UK, employing around 35,000 people.

What’s the Connection Between Bioenergy and Mesothelioma?

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that old buildings containing asbestos insulation are not the only places that asbestos can be found. In fact, at any given time, the air we breathe can contain asbestos.

However, this is usually at incredibly low levels of between 0.00001 to 0.0001 fibers per millimeter of air and does not pose any danger to human health. Having said that, many doctors will disagree, as many will argue that no level of asbestos is ever safe.

On average, it’s thought that the ‘danger zone’ for asbestos stands at around 1%. An individual who has been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos may be unaware of this as symptoms will often not present themselves until ten or even twenty years after the exposure.

Asbestos occurs naturally in rocks, particularly altered ultramafic rocks and some mafic rocks. Asbestos can also occur naturally in some kinds of soil.

The Connection Between Plant Workers and Illnesses

It has been discovered that, in some instances, dedicated bioenergy crop sites have been created on land where the soil has been contaminated by asbestos, either naturally or through previous commercial endeavors.

Employees who are responsible for working with these crops including planting, nurturing and picking, become vulnerable to high levels of asbestos. When inhaled, this level of asbestos can be harmful to health and has led to mesothelioma.

As well as soil contamination, the process of converting food and organic waste into energy such as creating methane, can produce small amounts of asbestos. Although these may be minimal, continued exposure over time can lead to health problems in workers, including mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often caught late and on average, the life expectancy of the patient from the point of diagnosis is only between 4 and 18 months.

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Asbestos Claims in the UK

In 2020, there were 17,023 asbestos compensation claims, with payouts of around £233.9 million. Despite almost forty years passing since the prohibition of asbestos in buildings, some UK solicitors report that claims are increasing rather than dwindling as victims seek financial compensation after being diagnosed with asbestos related diseases.

While some of these claims are made by former employees of old-style power plants, more and more are now emerging from bioenergy facilities.

Further Risk Assessments Need to be Improved by Employers…

In 2022, it’s reasonable to assume that, when you start a new job, the last thing on your mind is the risk of coming into contact with asbestos. Many of the bioenergy employees who are now making claims are justifiably angry about the fact that they were never made aware of any risk during the course of their work.

While this is devastating, it’s not necessarily evidence of sinister dealings by bioenergy companies. In many cases, employers did not inform their employees of risk for the simple reason that they weren’t aware of it themselves.

There’s no doubt that bioenergy is the future as we continue to move away from environment harming processes. However, while we call this progress in some ways, employers will need to examine all of their processes and materials to identify any possible risks to employees, in order to prevent unnecessary illness and death.

Sustainable Waste Management in the Construction Industry

Construction business is booming worldwide driven by population growth, urbanization and increased need for dwellings, business sites and commercial spaces with volume output expected to grow by 85% to $15.5 trillion by 2030. Unfortunately, it also means that there is a serious challenge to implement sustainable waste management in the construction industry.

It is not only the duty of waste management contractors and companies to ensure sustainable collection and management of construction wastes responsibly but also individuals who are doing their own DIY projects at home. Without a concerted effort to collect, recycle and dispose waste properly, there is real danger to the environment that will eventually spill over to people, vegetation, and wildlife.

Role of education and behavior change

On a global scale, over half of the world’s population have no access to a steady collection of trash. Illegal dumpsites hold over 40% of the world’s waste. It’s not only the lack of facilities but also inadequate information that is contributing to waste-related pollution all over the world.

Sustainable waste collection begins by educating people about reducing, reusing and recycling efforts or the 3R approach. From education and information campaigns to changes in behavior and attitudes, when people know and are aware of the benefits of reducing, segregating, collection, reusing and recycling, they become a collective and conscious effort.

Right materials and equipment

The availability of skips, bins, collection containers, and recycling centers also has a great influence on how much a person and their communities recycle and reuse or dispose of construction waste properly. For people who are able to hire a 20 yard dumpster in West Chester, Lancaster, Norrington, Reading or any other town in the world, it is easier and convenient to remove construction and renovation waste knowing that the company will dispose of it properly by bringing it to approved landfills.

What is also important is for clients, contractors and recycling specialists to put their heads together to minimize construction waste according to Oyenuga and Bhamidimarri.

General awareness to reduce dumping is increasing as about 35% of construction and demolition waste (CDW) goes to landfills. Construction rubbish can contain lots of toxic materials such as lead, asbestos, and other dangerous substances that can find their way into the soil, groundwater, and the air that we breathe.

The construction industry has also recognized that reusing components and materials in making or erecting structures is sustainable and saves money. Most of the parts of construction consist of wood, sticks, steel, and concrete. Rubble can be compacted and reused. Demolition is carefully considered if renovation can be carried out.

The Way Forward

Waste generated from construction sites need not be a nuisance to the environment. With the right education to increase awareness to reduce/recycle/reuse, provision of collection and recycling points and the newer and better techniques to reuse construction materials, sustainable management of construction waste can become a reality.