The ‘Circular Economy’ is now often referred to as the means or process of adopting a sustainable approach. In business this consists of a variety of models or approaches designed around how to keep materials in use for as long as possible through product and system design whilst extracting maximum value from them.
The premise is that our economic and business systems should focus on ‘designing out’ waste and new business opportunities should even arise from this strategic approach around the associated collecting and recycling. Models employed can be grand or minimal, complex or simple, but all aligned with the overall concept. We can all do our bit!
The concepts surround these issues are very worthwhile in the ‘throw away’ disposable society, we live in. It is often said that government legislation drives change, but business commentators often offer the rebuttal that commercial economics and economies of scale dictate the success or otherwise of this type of strategy.
To a growing extent this is a major issue within our industry. Construction produces extensive amounts of waste by the very nature of the build process. Visit any building site and the well organised ones will have a variety of skips for waste segregation that keep the site reasonably tidy compared to other less well organised. However, there are still many instances when the resulting waste is landfill bound with little or no reuse, reworking or recycling. Specifically, in flat roofing, while many refurbishment projects can be overlaid there are some where the existing roof-mat needs stripped and a complete new system installed. Single ply membrane systems have good longevity prospects and decades old single ply installations continue to give excellent service, in many cases outlasting other structural and non-structural components of the building.
Lack of economies of scale of single ply membrane waste generation has hampered innovation in the reuse and recycling processes in the UK. This is in part testament to the performance of single ply roofs in general over many years which means that there is not enough waste generated yet to drive recycling innovation and develop commercial viability.
However, as we continue to grow the single ply roofing industry, eventually there will be membrane systems reaching their ‘end of life’ phase. We will then be faced with increasing disposal issues. The focus of waste disposal, whether it be packaging, ‘off cuts’ in new build or stripped roofs in refurbishment, will increasingly occupy manufacturers’ attention even decades after the roof membrane, accessories and other roof-mat components were originally sold, as responsibility for such issues evolve.
The CPA (Construction Products Association) has been taking these issues very seriously through it’s ‘Sustainability Group’ and continues to strive to inform and work to understand the evolution at government, factory and site level. In light of the increasing focus on waste in general and specifically strategies or models including policies that we might employ or adopt, it is intended that SPRA will form a working group on the issue. This we hope will highlight the issue among members informing and perhaps developing policy and practice that will take us forward as a collective body dealing with the issue. The issue is complex and deserves careful consideration on how to approach the whole subject to ensure positive outcomes relating to organisational sustainability.
There is an abundance of theories and suggestions on how to tackle this growing issue within our industry. It is important that SPRA has a relevant workable policy on the issue that involves a ‘best practice’ approach. We will ensure that our membership will be advised accordingly and kept up to speed with the industry at large.
As always, I welcome any feedback on the issue and ideas related always considered.
Dr Ronan Brunton B.Sc MBA GMICE, Technical Manager