Each year 2.1 billion tonnes of solid waste is produced globally. This is expected to increase to over three billion tonnes by 2025.
Three waste streams lie at the heart of this problem: plastics, food waste and construction waste. Although food and plastic waste understandably sits higher in the public conscious, construction waste accounts for 60% of all materials used, creates 33% of waste and generates 45% of all CO2 emissions in the UK. So we must act.
Construction waste includes materials from excavation, roadworks and demolition, as well as complex waste like plastics, metal, ceramic and cardboard. Making up more than half of the construction waste generated annually are building materials including wood, shingles, asphalt, concrete and gypsum. The volume of construction waste generated worldwide every year is expected to nearly double to 2.2. billion tonnes by 2025.
In May 2019, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland announced ambitious green goals which included a commitment to become a zero-waste business by 2030. In practice this means that by 2030 no waste will go to landfill and all waste materials created through our business activities will be reused, repurposed and recycled. This is particularly challenging for construction projects.
Pushing further, by 2050 we plan to eradicate waste from the communities in which we operate and support a circular economy.
Grosvenor is starting on a strong footing. In 2018, we achieved a 67% recycling rate for waste from offices and retail premises, surpassing the London Plan target of 65% by 2030. And on our largest development projects we typically divert 99% of waste from landfill.
Part of the challenge for us now is in supporting smaller contractors that struggle to achieve the same rates.
Our new Supply Chain Charter seeks to helps them better measure and monitor waste and reduce the amount created. We’re also working with partners like First Mile, Hubbub and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) to manage waste and undertake tenant engagement activities such as food waste workshops and the installation of coffee cup recycling bins in public spaces.
We have also partnered with the London Waste and Recycling Board on creating the first fully circular building. We’ve been investigating modular construction for one of our largest development schemes and are seeking innovative ways to reuse materials from our sites.
In the grand scheme of the global waste problem, these are small scale projects. But they illustrate the kind of thinking and collaboration required to drastically reduce the amount of waste that our industry creates.
Ultimately, what we need to do is achieve fully circular outcomes across the building’s lifecycle. But as we learn how to get there, we need to be open and honest about the challenges. So in the meantime, let’s make sure that we are sharing what we learn from all the small interventions to help scale and accelerate radical change across the sector.
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