1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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The WasteWise Construction Program

This article was contributed by the Environmental Stewardship Team, Sustainable Industries Branch, Environment Australia.


Australians currently send approximately one tonne of waste per person per year to landfill. Construction and demolition (C&D) wastes can make up to 40% of this waste.

C&D wastes are potentially valuable recoverable resources being wasted. Materials include metals, concrete and bricks, glass, fittings and fixtures from demolished or refurbished buildings, wood and wall panelling.

In 1995 the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) approached five major Australian construction companies to pioneer best practice waste reduction in the industry in an effort to reduce the amount of C&D waste going to landfill. ANZECC negotiated a voluntary industry waste reduction agreement incorporating waste reduction and recycling targets, known as the WasteWise Construction Program.

Phase I of the program

Waste management is the responsibility of state and territory governments. WasteWise was established to assist the Commonwealth establish and promote a cohesive national approach to waste reduction. The $5m Waste Management Awareness Program is administered by Environment Australia under the Natural Heritage Trust.

Through WasteWise, participating construction companies conducted the first detailed assessment of waste reduction opportunities from supply through to production and recycling.

The original WasteWise Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) stated:

'It is a national program to encourage best practice approaches to waste minimising construction and demolition waste.

A best practice approach to environmental management can protect the environment, save resources; avoid waste, increase reuse and recycling of materials, and reduce the amount of waste going into landfill.

The application of waste minimisation principles to project operations will facilitate the contribution of the construction and demolition industry to the national waste reduction target.'

Five leading construction companies signed up for Phase 1 (November 1995-98), and funded their own participation in order to adopt a best practice approach to environmental management. They all achieved significant waste reduction within the bounds of normal commercial imperatives, and found that waste reduction could be increased by:
  • recognising the 'bottom line' benefits of waste minimisation
  • participating in the development of a national approach
  • conducting waste reduction trials in their operations
  • addressing coordination issues and barriers so that industry can work to overcome them
  • being involved, through industry representative groups or as key stakeholders, in the development of future arrangements
  • accepting, adopting and promoting best practice waste reduction.

A review of the program was undertaken in 1997 and published in the WasteWise Construction Program Review, which details the individual successes of the five partners.

Subsequently, the WasteWise Handbook (1998) became a 'how to' booklet with examples and company achievements and procedures from their waste reduction manuals. Both of these publications informed the development of the Waste Reduction Guidelines (2000), which provided organisational tools for adoption.

Phase II of the program

Phase II commenced in late 1998, running until the end of 2001. The intention was to widen participation in best practice waste minimisation to other scales of construction and other industry members. While the new MoU had a common statement of commitment for all participants, separate schedules for industry sub-sectors identified their waste roles and responsibilities. The industry sub-sectors were invited to participate, included:
  • architects and designers
  • material suppliers
  • C&D companies
  • waste collectors for recycling
  • industry organisations.

Fourteen leading companies and peak industry organisations committed themselves to the Phase II WasteWise Construction Program by signing the MoU.

Highlights of the WasteWise Construction Program 1995-2001

For the participating organisations the WasteWise program has successfully decreased the amount of waste going to landfill, sometimes by more than 90%. While the individual performance of WasteWise partners varied from year to year and from project to project, some of the highlights are summarised below:
  • Barclay Mowlem Construction diverted over 80% of its total waste from landfill in 2000.
  • Bovis Lend Lease recycled 98% of material from the State Office Block site in Sydney in 1997. In 2001, 87% (280,790 m3) was reused, recycled or reprocessed on all Bovis Lend Lease sites.
  • The John Holland Group avoided, recovered, reused or recycled 83% (8,851,000 kg) of waste generated on all its sites in 2001.
  • Multiplex Constructions recycled 60% of site waste at the Homebush Bay Olympic Stadium site between April and August 1997, and 87% (1,250 tonnes) of waste from the Campbelltown Hospital site was recycled in 2001.
  • Project Coordination (Australia) recycled 68% (240 tonnes) of waste material generated at the Canberra Hospital Pathology Building Refurbishment and the Calvary Hospital Redevelopment by separating waste streams at their source.
  • Thiess recycled or reused 94% waste generated at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital site in 2001. A total of 32,641 m3 of waste was diverted from landfill, resulting in waste removal cost savings of around 40%.
  • Fletcher Construction reused or recycled 43% of all waste from the Dandenong Police and Court Buildings, saving 55% of the company's waste removal costs. Waste reduction techniques developed under WasteWise have been used by the company in the United States of America, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.