Waste not want not

12 August 2002
ACCORDING to a study being conducted by Winston Shakantu, of the Department of Construction Economics and Management, the process of cleaning up waste from construction sites costs the Cape Town Metropolitan Council about R200-million a year.

Shakantu is part of the integrative study that includes the School of the Built and Natural Environment from Glasgow Caledonian University, UCT, the Cape Town Metropolitan Council and Glasgow City that will be assessing, and improving the logistics of building materials and building waste management in Cape Town using sustainability concepts.

Shakantu says that waste is endemic in virtually all-industrial production processes. Construction is not different in this regard. In fact, construction has an additional factor in that the physical size and scope of construction projects give waste generated a huge environmental impact, in addition to being highly visible.

"The size of the problem is huge, recent unpublished figures from the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at UCT show that 42%, nearly 3-million tons, of all waste being deposited in the False Bay coastal park landfill site near Cape Town was from construction and demolition waste," he explains.

He elaborates by saying that the meaning of the term "waste" is often misunderstood by industry.

"During the production phase of construction, waste is usually associated solely with the visible physical waste needing disposal. However, sources of waste in construction are broader and include overproduction, inventory, repair or rejects, motion, transport, processing and waiting."

One of the main areas of waste, pointed out by the study, is that the movement of construction materials from the point of production to the point of consumption is uncoordinated and inflexible.

" The majority of construction materials suppliers have their own vehicles and delivery schedules, delivering 'ad hoc' to various locations locally and nationally. This, in turn creates huge amounts of both visible and invisible waste.

"The main sources of waste come from sub-optimally loaded vehicles moving too frequently through cities at inappropriate times. Often because sites are not adjacent in areas of rapid development, movements are not synchronised and this adds to their inherent problems by creating 'bottlenecks' in the road transport system."

A further dimension of waste in the process comes from the fact that construction traffic fails to 'back haul' materials from site to points of disposal.

This results in double handling and an immediate increase in vehicular traffic, as additional vehicles need to be made available to remove physical waste from site.

Shakantu says that a simplistic way of rectifying this is by having one supplier of construction materials who would transport the material to all the construction sites in Cape Town CBD delivering material and collecting waste. "This is a way of not only sustaining the environment but also business," he says.

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