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Reconstruct: Trial To Recycle Construction Waste

26 April 2024

Nelson City Council and Nelson Environment Centre (NEC) are launching a trial project to tackle the high volume of construction and demolition waste that ends up in Nelson’s landfill.

Construction and demolition waste has always been a priority for Council’s Rethink Waste Whakaarohia programme. It’s a significant contributor of waste to landfill and this initiative at the Nelson Environment Centre allows construction companies to make sure valuable resources can be recovered and reused by the community.

Materials arriving on trailers and light commercial trucks will be assessed by NEC staff, then directed to the new facility where the materials can be unloaded. There’s a long list of materials that will be accepted including timber, fittings like doors, windows and kitchen fittings, plumbing and piping, gib, paint, and roofing iron.

Nelson Environment Centre CEO Anton Drazevic says giving people the opportunity to reuse construction materials in their own DIY projects is a no-brainer.

“Figures from Statistics New Zealand show that in the years 2020 – 2022, the price of construction material for DIYers has risen by 25%. We have been accepting some materials like doors, windows and pipes for a while, but this initiative will allow us to considerably expand our offer.

“With costs increasing across the board, we’re seeing a lot of people through our ReUse store deciding to give things a second life. Reconstruct helps fill a gap in the market. Recycling is often seen as the best option, but reusing materials is the more sustainable choice because it reduces the need to produce new products and can help cut down on waste.”

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Construction and demolition waste may account for 50% of all waste generated in New Zealand, with at least 70% of that being reusable or recyclable.

Scott Construction implemented reuse into their practices in 2022 and have seen strong results. In March of 2024, on a project at Olive Estate, Scott Construction successfully diverted 80% of their materials from landfill. Training and Staff Development Manager Steve McIntyre says prioritising waste diversion requires ongoing education until it becomes routine behaviour, a culture within the company and the wider industry.

“There’s a few different skips onsite, some to collect plasterboard, cardboard, some for PVC pipe and steel. After recently prioritising sustainability education, we are now taking a moment to think about the material and which skip/bin it’s best to go into.”

Nelson’s four largest building companies — Coman Construction, Gibbons, Fitzgerald Construction, and Scott Construction — along with Nelson City and Tasman District Councils, form the Nelson Construction Environment Alliance. This group aims to make the construction industry more sustainable by recognising that small changes can lead to big results.

One of the Alliance’s focuses is the amount of soft, coloured plastic that can go into landfill from worksites.

“Timber arrives wrapped in plastic,” says McIntyre. “We worked with Waste Management New Zealand and ITM and in just one week, from seven sites, they collected 1 tonne of plastic sheets and sent them to be recycled.”

Not only is the practice of recycle and reuse good for the environment, but it ultimately leads to savings for the businesses involved too.

“A skip of plasterboard waste is dumped at a cost of $300 a tonne, there could be 4 tonnes in a skip bin, and several skips per project. This is a cost that can be passed on to the consumer. Reuse and waste diversion is quickly becoming a good economical choice for construction companies.”

Nelson Mayor Nick Smith, who has a family background in civil construction, welcomes the launch of the trial.

“I am excited about the potential of this new reuse scheme for builders to reduce the amount of construction and demolition waste going to landfill and to save on landfill charges. I love the way Nelson Environment Centre, Council and building companies have partnered to make this as practical as possible for the industry.

“Nelson has a proud track record of leading on environmental issues, being the first to establish an environment centre and, more recently, being the first to have a 100% electric bus service. This innovative construction waste reuse scheme is an opportunity for our building industry to lead on sustainability.

“I set a challenge to the builders at the launch of diverting 10% of Nelson’s building waste from landfill in the first year and promised a BBQ shout and a free beer (my home brew) if the target is reached by July 2025,” Mayor Nick says.

There was a soft launch for Reconstruct at a Builders’ Breakfast event on Wednesday 24 April.

Builders are now able to start bringing leftover construction materials to the NEC and those materials will become available to the public in four to six weeks’ time.

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