By Anja Karadeglija
Special to Ontario Construction Report
In February, the Construction Resource Initiatives (CRI) Council is set to launch a campaign calling for the elimination of all construction waste in Canada.
The organization says it’s possible to possible to reuse, recycle, salvage, reduce or recover for energy over 95 per cent of construction and demolition waste, and the Mission 2030 campaign calls for a target of zero construction waste going to landfill by 2030.
Many materials that can be recycled end up in landfills right now, said founding president Renée Gratton. For example, drywall is completely recyclable, and concrete and roofing materials can be recycled as well.
At this point, the campaign is targeted at building owners and facility managers, designers, like architects and interior and industrial designers and those who design building materials, contractors and trades in the building industry, as well as the waste industry, especially companies that specialize in handling waste materials.
“Ultimately, we need to catch everyone, but we need to start somewhere,” Gratton said.
The idea the CRI Council is trying to get across is that it’s not waste that needs to be eliminated – it’s the idea of waste.
“As long as we view and deal with waste as such, that’s what going to happen to it,” Gratton explained. “Once we start looking at waste as a recoverable resource, as a valuable resource, then we can change the path.”
She said companies will be successful in reducing waste as long as they take the construction waste management planning seriously.
“If you set back, integrate, talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to – i.e. the waste industry – you will be able to build a better plan. So zero waste is possible if you plan for it,” Gratton said, noting that’s what the companies who are successfully moving to zero waste have done.
The CRI Council doesn’t expect anyone to get to that point immediately; instead, the target is a reduction of 35 per cent by 2015, 50 per cent by 2020, 75 per cent by 2025, with the goal of achieving zero waste by 2030.
“In 2013, all we’re asking people to do is take stock of how much waste they generate…Just figure out what you waste, how much of it do you waste, where does it go and commit reduce it by 35 per cent by 2015,” Gratton explained.
She said once companies gain more experience in reducing waste, it gets easer.
“If they can get to the 35 or 50 per cent, they can get to the rest,” she added.
In order for Mission 2030 to achieve its goal, municipalities will need to get involved as well. While regulatory change can’t fix the problem on its own, because companies would always be able to turn to landfills south of the border, regulations that support the zero-waste efforts will be necessary as well.
“Regulations – you can have as many as you want. But if they’re on their own and not everybody knows about them, they’re going to be worth nothing but the paper they’re written on,” she said.
Gratton added there is a business case for these efforts as well.
“If you do your work well enough, instead of saying ‘oh, it’s cheaper to dump it in a landfill,’ there are creative ways to do it that in fact save you money,” she argued, giving the examples of Minto and Caterpillar as companies who’ve recognized that it makes business sense to reduce waste.
All stakeholders will have to integrate and work together, and education within the industry will also be necessary, Gratton said.
Gratton noted that support has increased over the years, but that the CRI Council can’t do the job alone, and it’s time for businesses to jump in.
The CRI Council started off as a task force focusing on drywall recycling, and then grew to take on the wider issue of construction waste. It’s still a volunteer-run organization and Gratton herself provided most of the funding.
“It was a personal quest to begin with, then a professional quest, and eventually took a life of it’s own,” she said.
In 2011, the organization started getting financial support from organizations, associations and private companies, and there are plans to apply for grants as well. It did receive some significant moral support last September, however, when it became an official partner of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Partnership on Waste Management.
“The UN has been instrumental in not just giving us their support to help us build credibility, but in providing us with a real understanding of some of the facts and challenges that we face,” she said. They also helped “us understand the opportunities, because there are a lot more opportunities than I thought to do the zero waste.”
Globally, the issue of waste is a massive one, she noted.
“Half of humanity lives in waste. Waste is expected to double by 2025. Those are some pretty staggering numbers,” Gratton said.
The organization is also setting its sights beyond Canada, and is currently in discussions with universities in countries like Uganda and India, trying to find out the source of the contaminated waste that ends up in these countries.
“It’s affecting their people – so where is it coming from?”