Crunch time

10 April 2008

2008 looks set to be a crunch year for the building industry, following the vote by the European Parliament to strengthen the EU Directive on recycling and waste. Member States are already applying the founding principles of ‘proximity' and ‘self-sufficiency' to their own national plans for waste management, impacting on all firms involved in demolition or construction.

In a bid to make the EU a world leader in terms of waste management, targets for the prevention of waste will have to be laid down for each Member State by 2010, and reached by 2020, stabilising waste production at 2008 levels within the next four years.

MEPs have also introduced a target of recycling or reusing 70% of waste from construction, demolition, industry and manufacturing, reflecting the new hierarchy that has been agreed, which places reuse and recycling as the preferred treatment of waste.

With Europe currently producing around 2000 million t of waste each year, these new regulations will bring increased paperwork and make all contractors more accountable for the entire site. But failure to comply will hit hard, with fines in the UK, for example, already set at up to £5000 (€6750), enforceable by both local councils and the Environment Agency.

One cornerstone of the EU Directive waste management is the Proximity Principle, which states “waste should be managed as close as practicable to the point at which it is generated”. Put simply, this means if construction managers can recycle on site, then they must – no arguments. The Proximity Principle is also reinforced in the UK by waste transfer legislation which means that, strictly speaking, if waste concrete and brick is moved from a site - even it's taken back to base to recycle it – a waste carrier license is required.

This may sound like a hard-line approach, but sometimes that is what it takes to enforce positive change. The new laws will inevitably hurt some contractors in the short term, but it is also a real opportunity for the industry to improve standards, increase accountability and meet market demands for sustainable development. While waste management requires a change of outlook, it is not a catastrophe – there are already solutions working on sites and available, which actually make the job less expensive.

Manufacturers, including Digbits, are investing heavily in developing new tools for compact concrete and rubble recycling. It's just not good enough for us to simply produce a crushing machine – it has to work hard for the contractor, making life simpler and cheaper. We hope that our own new BAVTRAK 025 model will make its own contribution.

The real problem facing the global industry is not the regulations, or a lack of affordable solutions, but the lack of awareness. For decades, larger developers, especially on brown-field sites, have generally been required to recycle any concrete and rubble and keep vehicle movements to a minimum. In contrast, some smaller developers have enjoyed immunity for many years. That will no longer be the case, with small developers and contractors also having to conform to the recycling and reuse regulations.

While larger developers are investing in crushing machinery, rental companies are also embracing the opportunity, providing a way for smaller developers and contractors to access these machines, as they are needed. It is an opportunity that will only grow as the full force of the regulations are felt around Europe.

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