Tackling Waste In The Real Estate Industry


Real estate is an industry that relies on construction and development as its means for growth, what comes from that however is a vast amount of waste. We look at why the industry is such a massive producer of waste and what sustainable methods the industry must start to look at.


At Hurstwood we know the importance of having a strong waste management system in place, not just because it’s more efficient, but the impact a building site can have on the local environment can be huge if not managed correctly. However, as an industry, we need to collectively do more to tackle the amount of waste we produce, in the UK the construction and development industry produces 61% of the total waste amount recorded that includes households, commercial and industrial waste.

Construction is an industry that produces large amounts of waste, with new build constructions needing a constant stream of new materials, this brings with it a hefty waste load and usually this waste ends in a landfill if not correctly disposed of, typical waste products that construction can produce include: 


  • Wood, glass and plastic
  • Insulation and asbestos materials
  • Concrete, bricks tiles and steel
  • Cables and pipes
  • Cement waste
  • Foundation materials which include soil and stones.


The use of landfill is a common practice in the UK and needs to be cut to reduce emissions. As of 2016, landfill is the second most used waste treatment in the UK, with 52.3 million tonnes of waste disposed of at landfills. The overeliance on a landfill is a dangerous precedent, as more space is being filled with waste, more methane gas is being released, which is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 


Sustainable alternatives. 

There is still hope however, as sustainable construction products are becoming a need rather than a want and the demand is there for new products to change how we construct our buildings and homes. New sustainable products that are hitting the market include:


Ferrock: There has been a desperate need to find an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete as cement produces large amounts of Co2. With ferrock we may finally have a greener alternative. Ferrock is made up of wasted steel dust, which ironically is discarded from the construction process, and silca from ground-up glass. The advantages of ferrock are that its is five times stronger than traditional cement and can withstand more pressure from the ground beneath the earth, meaning when an earthquakes strikes, the building could handle the ground moving far better than cement. Importantly it is made up from 95% recyclable materials, which in the long term could have a massive impact on how we reduce and recycle construction waste.


Timbercrete: Timbercrete is a sustainable material that can be used instead of concrete to createbricks, blocks or panels. What makes timbercrete so unique is its ability to trap carbon within the material itself, which would otherwise end up as a greenhouse gas. It is made up of a blend of sawmill waste, cement, sand and a non-toxic deflocculating additive. It is 2 times lighter than concrete and is also flexible which means it can be nailed, screwed or pressed , and finally; it has a larger insulation value, reducing energy consumption. For construction sites, Timbercrete is easier to lay than other conventional types of construction materials.


Recycled Plastic: Using plastic as a construction material is fast becoming a trend in sustainable construction. As plastic is a material that is in dire need of being recycled faster and easier, with the equivalent of a truckload of plastic entering the oceans every minute, it’s becoming a public emergency and there is a greater need to find more uses for plastic materials. This is where construction and development comes into play. Studies have been taken from Bath university which have demonstrated that replacing sand in concrete with ground-up plastic can lead to a more sustainable concrete material. This is a massive breakthrough in having a more sustainable construction process and as plastic is currently circulating in huge amounts, recycling it for construction purposes could help with developments costs.


Overall, the construction and development industry has a major role in changing its building process to focus on the use of sustainable materials. There must be a major shift in the culture of the real estate and development industry to curb the irreversible damage climate change could have on the planet.