Avoiding the landfill tax by embracing the circular economy
Following an estimation in 2008, that the construction and demolition industry was responsible for 25 million tons of landfill waste – just in England – the government took action. One of the key targets of the Government’s Strategy for Sustainable Construction was to cut this figure in half by 2012.
In April 2015’s budget the landfill tax increase was in line with inflation, going up by £2.60 – with the standard rate rising from £80 per tonne to £82.60 per tonne. There are still two landfill tax rates. The lower one, which applies to less polluting waste, including bricks, stone and concrete with small amounts of wood and plaster, went up this April by just 10p, from £2.50 to £2.60.
Despite an increase in standard rates, landfill sites are reaching capacity – with the construction industry picking up pace, a new approach is needed. This article considers whether the concept of the circular economy could help avoid the impact of landfill tax increases.
 Rethinking construction waste
This has resulted in the industry beginning to think differently:
- Considering the ease of reusing materials at the end of a building’s useful life at the planning stage.
- Incorporating reclaimed and recycled materials into new buildings and renovation projects.
- Reusing materials that might otherwise go to waste, either on the same site or elsewhere.
- Segregating waste on site to ensure the absolute minimum goes to landfill.
This encourages a more positive attitude towards reusing materials.
 The circular economy – inspired by nature
A shift in attitudes towards waste has increased awareness in the industry of a philosophy known as the circular economy.
The core principles include:
- Minimising the volume of waste created by taking a longer-term view.
- Focusing on ways of harnessing the innate value of the waste that is generated.
Where before, the industry would simply dispose of materials when they were finished with them, it now asks: if something can’t be reused as it is, can it be recycled? Alternatively, can it be used as a resource or fuel to produce energy? This reflects the way the natural world works, with a web of interconnecting product lifecycles and nothing ultimately going to waste.
 Economic benefits
Looking at the bigger picture, applying the circular approach to a waste strategy, can not only save money in landfill taxes, but can offer wider financial benefits.
A few examples of ideas that can be implemented include:
- Considering ways to minimise waste at every stage of a project.
- Sourcing reclaimed and recovered materials, such as recycled aggregates, which can be cheaper.
- Segregating different recyclable waste streams on site.
- Using plasterboard offcuts for patching and completing small areas.
- Reusing suitable brick and block hardcore waste on site.
- Saving excess materials to use for other projects.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- 5 things leaders can do to create a truly circular economy.
- BRE SMARTwaste.
- Circular economy.
- Design for deconstruction.
- End of life potential.
- Energy from waste.
- Environmental plan.
- Landfill tax.
- Materials Management Plan (MMP).
- Recyclable construction materials.
- Site waste management plan.
- Waste management plan for England.
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