Demand for construction materials with high recycled content in new building projects is increasingly being driven by some of the construction industry's largest clients.

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) is helping a range of organisations in the public and private sector to make more efficient use of materials and reduce waste on construction projects.

Many are in the process of setting minimum requirements for recycled content as one element of sustainable procurement practice. As a result, the supply chain is increasingly motivated to measure and improve performance on waste management and use of recovered material. This will drive down the amount of waste sent to landfill and make recycling more economic. Just last month, the Scottish Executive announced that it has asked all public bodies in Scotland to include minimum requirements for recycled content in tender specifications for construction procurement. The recommended target is for at least 10 per cent of the total value of materials used on projects over £1 million to be derived from recycled and re-used content.

Also, Yorkshire Forward has become the first Regional Development Agency in England to set such a requirement in the projects it funds. A minimum requirement of 10 per cent came into effect from 1st December. “Construction clients can act most effectively to drive change through the tendering process. By including a minimum requirement and a request for good practice within tender specifications and contracts, significant progress can be achieved in improving sustainability,” comments Dr David Moon, WRAP Programme Manager for Construction Procurement. He continues: “Case studies show that contractors can meet requirements without increasing the costs of materials or increasing risks.

There are many mainstream product options available to the construction industry, and a more informed approach to materials purchasing can significantly increase the level of recycled content in a new building. But, it takes a client’s mandate to get the supply chain to address this issue and realise the opportunities.” Other organisations have also taken action. For example, Glasgow City Council, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), KPMG, British Land, Welsh Heath Estates and the Northern Ireland Central Procurement Directorate are all setting minimum requirements of 10 to 20 per cent. As a result, more recycled materials are being used in the construction industry, thereby alleviating demand for the extraction of natural resources and, more importantly, reducing the amount of waste ending up at landfill.

WRAP can help both clients and contractors look at how they can increase materials efficiency in a number of ways. The organisation provides free advice, guidance, training and tools to implement changes. For example, WRAP’s web-based Recycled Content Toolkit helps design teams and contractors quantify the top five to 10 opportunities for increasing the overall recycled content within a building. Guidance and model wording are available to help construction clients set targets within their procurement policies and processes.

Bristol City Council worked with WRAP on the first project in the secondary schools renewal programme in England to reach contractual agreement, to help include recycled content within the tender specification and partnering agreement. WRAP commissioned market research to show that costs should not increase, and assisted with procurement wording in the PFI documentation.

In Bristol, Skanska won the contract to build the four schools. Company Environmental Manager, Matthew Janssen, comments: “It’s a lot easier than people expect to substantially increase the level of recycled content in a build project. There is a great selection of products on the market that offer an above average level of recycled content at a similar cost and quality to more traditional choices. We are now setting our own recycled content target throughout the Integrated Projects division of Skanska”.


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