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Reducing Waste to Save the Bottom Line

  May 2018 / Vol 8 Issue 3

Reducing Waste to Save the Bottom Line
By: Chris Chadwick, Business Development, SunnySide Supply


In a typical year, the American construction industry generates enough waste or debris to create a wall approximately 30 feet wide and four feet high, that could run from New Your City to Los Angeles six times. This works out to an estimated 136 million tons annually.

Like most others working in the Oil and Gas Industry, I see the importance of doing what we can to minimize our impact on the environment while still getting the job done. That being said, there are obvious environmental benefits to reducing waste, but in all honesty, when I look at that statistic my first thought is not the environment. My first thought is that there is a place in all aspects of our industry to increase efficiencies and save money during the construction phase and beyond.

We all know that, in general, proper planning ahead of time is the key to controlling costs on any project. Why not consider probable waste and try to plan the project with a focus on waste reduction from the very beginning? When in the design phase of your project, try to be sure that any design changes are made before construction begins, thereby eliminating the waste associated with removing and replacing new construction. Yes, I do understand that the reality of the situation is that even the best plans can (and more time than not, will) end up needing to be changed on the fly. It then becomes very important to streamline the materials coming into the construction site, properly manage how the waste is separated, and be sure of where the waste ends up.

Planning your projects with a focus on waste reduction comes with three major
1. Reduction of Overall Project Cost
-Reduce “over-ordering” of construction materials for Cost Savings
2. Ability to Reuse Materials for Future Projects
-Cost savings on ordering redundant materials
3. Reduction of Amount of Waste to Landfills
-Added Cost Savings on Reduction of Waste Sent to Landfills

In my research for this article, I began looking for products and services designed to help project owners and managers find ways to reduce their construction waste and contribute to a “Waste Management Blueprint”, or general plan for waste management and reduction.

Refuse Service Providers like Waste Management, and most other waste removal companies, offer several options for recycling and removal of everything from heavy steel and concrete to asphalt, gravel and aggregate products. These companies can also assist and consult project managers as to what materials it makes sense to resell, reuse or recycle. Many of these companies even have established waste reduction plans for certain types of construction that they can provide to help give direction to your specific project.

Planning to use as much pre-fabricated components in your project is another great way to cut down on waste. In the Oil and Gas industry, companies like Exterran have been developing complete process packages that are delivered onsite already built, for years. The only outside materials being used are joining the complete process units together and tying them into the system, which has eliminated a great deal of waste from the industry’s bottom line.

There is a manufacturer in South Carolina, ErectaStep Products, that has designed a platform and stair system that is completely modular, re-configurable and engineered to be completely OSHA compliant. So often in our industry we see old ladders, platforms and steps rusting away in lay-down yards and storage areas, long forgotten and unable to be reused on other projects. The ErectaStep system is designed in lightweight aluminum for ease of assembly and product longevity. If plans need to be changed mid project, this product can be reconfigured to fit without any waste. When using a custom fabricated stair or platform system, if any elevation changes occur after they are built, the materials must often be discarded. Having a product that can be redesigned and reused in the field will save days of labor and the expense of purchasing the same materials twice.

Another great example of waste reduction that we see daily in the Natural Gas industry is the use of recycled shipping containers as storage units on sites and in plants, reducing waste by avoiding a new construction project. According to the managers that I regularly deal with in the industry, they are reducing waste far beyond the construction phase based on the fact that workers don’t have extra space to store unnecessary items. This storage solution also saves the waste from the original container owner reselling the unit instead of disposing of it.

We have covered the basic ideas of planning a Waste Management Blueprint. We have discussed some ideas, services and products to reduce waste. The final piece of the puzzle is training and awareness. Without clear leadership and having all workers on the same page in regards to managing waste, the battle to reduce and save will be difficult. The answer is to make sure that all waste management goals are clearly defined and measurable, to take all necessary steps to educate workers on what is required of them to do their part, and to make it clear why following the plan is important. Making a waste reduction plan part of your standard operating procedure will ensure that every employee, from every phase of the project, will know exactly how your organization handles any and all types of waste.

The ideas and products above are great steps in the direction of reducing waste on jobsites, but the amount of waste that can be diverted from landfills, as well as the resulting cost savings, will vary depending on countless factors. Smaller, geographically restricted job sites won’t always have space for separated material dumpsters, or anyone willing to service them. Proximity to recycling centers can also limit what can be recycled and whether or not it is cost effective to do so. These are areas where planning ahead will be helpful in the long run. Even if a jobsite can make recycling and reusing difficult, or even impossible, being more efficient with materials will reduce waste. Remember, the objective is to not create the waste in the first place. We know recycling unusable materials saves money, imagine the savings if there were no waste at all!




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