Construction waste under the microscope

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New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga’s latest discussion document looks at the state of play of infrastructure in the resource recovery and waste sector.

One of a series of reports into key infrastructure sectors, it highlights some of the challenges for resource recovery and waste infrastructure planning.

The document finds data showing that waste from construction makes up between 40% to 50% of all waste sent to landfill.

“It is clear New Zealand could be doing better at reducing the amount of household, construction and other waste we send to landfill when compared to others in the OECD,” chief executive Ross Copland says.

“We have found limitations in the data available at a national level which make it hard to plan for resource recovery and waste infrastructure over the long term,” he says.

“Access to recycling infrastructure is not uniform across the country, with many areas lacking access to the infrastructure necessary for recovering materials or downcycling.

“There are also gaps in the types of materials that can be processed here versus overseas.

“On the surface, this may point to the need for investment in more infrastructure, but the economics of resource recovery are heavily influenced by factors that can change quickly, often beyond our borders.

“Regulation and policy settings, and changes in the international market value of recycled materials all have a big impact on the affordability and demands on resource recovery infrastructure.

“There is potential for waste prevention to become a more important part of the solution.

“Off-site construction, computer-aided design, product stewardship and ‘design for deconstruction’ are a handful of examples of how the construction industry is taking proactive steps to reduce the volume of waste produced during construction.

“New Zealand is also dealing with a legacy of historic landfills. The 2019 incident with the Fox Glacier landfill highlights the importance of understanding and proactively managing our contaminated sites, particularly as we experience more frequent and intense floods.

“These are just some of the issues we’ll need to consider as we work toward our 30-year strategy for infrastructure.”

In addition to waste and resource recovery, Te Waihanga has published state of play discussion documents on the telecommunications, energy and water sectors.

Over the coming weeks it will share state of plays on the transport and social infrastructure sectors.

Based on reviews of research on each sector, these build Te Waihanga’s evidence base for a 30-year infrastructure strategy. Following consultation, the strategy will be presented to the Minister for Infrastructure by September 2021.

Te Waihanga invites people to share their feedback on the State of Play, and identify any issues they feel should be included.

The Resource Recovery and Waste State of Play, along with information on how to have your say, can be found at https://infracom.govt.nz/strategy/state-of-plays/resource-recovery-and-waste.