Recycling Spot Rates (June 2016)

When I run waste masterclasses and other courses, I often talk about recovering asset values of materials, and invariably this ends up with people asking me where to find current scrap rates. As it can sometimes be quite a challenge to find these, here’s my own occasional snapshot of the UK scrap market (in order of value):

  • Copper (clean, bright) – £2500 per tonne
  • Mixed brass (clean, bright) – £1600 per tonne
  • Old brass and copper – £1200 per tonne
  • Insulated “ring main” cable (45% copper by weight) – £900 per tonne
  • Lead – £900 per tonne
  • Aluminium (new, bright) – £650 per tonne
  • Insulated “data” cable (25% copper by weight) – £650 per tonne
  • Old aluminium – £600 per tonne
  • Stainless steel (318) – £570 per tonne
  • Plastic film (LDPE / HDPE, clean, “natural”) – £320 per tonne
  • Plastic film (LDPE / HDPE, clean, printed or coloured) – £190 per tonne
  • Paper (clean sorted office collections) – £140 per tonne
  • Plastic film (mixed, printed, 10% contamination) – £90 per tonne
  • Cardboard (clean, mill bales) – £80 per tonne
  • Heavy steel scrap – £75 per tonne
  • Cast iron (radiators etc) – £70 per tonne
  • Light steel scrap – £35 per tonne
  • High grade wood (clean solid wood) – minus £35 per tonne (pay to dispose)
  • Low grade wood (contaminated, boards) – minus £60 per tonne (pay to dispose)

The more value you can recover by segregating at the upper end of the list above, the less your waste disposal will cost you overall.


Pallet Recycling and Reuse

Pallets 01 600BIn the construction industry, a huge number of pallets get thrown into skips simply because sites don’t know just how easy it is to return these to productive use. It’s not necessary to ring around and try to get someone to pick them up – one phone call is all it takes to get them collected and returned to their original users / suppliers through the Scott Recovery pallet repatriation service. This is how it works:

  • Collect together a minimum of 30 pallets – mixed sizes, sound or damaged.
  • Ring 0800 282488 or email

… and that’s it. They’ll come and collect on their next round. No fuss, no bother. Done.

UKCG Environmental Training Standard

The UKCG Environmental Training Standard  was published in July 2015, and recognises the leadership role that UK Contractors Group member companies play in driving best practice within the construction sector. It sets down the minimum training expected for individuals to undertake their roles on member’s sites to be able to demonstrate their competency through formal environmental training, including the CITB SEATS course.

This document sets down the standard of environmental training applicable to those who manage, supervise or undertake construction related activities as follows:

Site Managers (including those employed by supply chains):

  1. CITB SEATS+ Course (SEATS plus additional management modules); or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of TWO DAYS, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Supervisors (including those employed by supply chains)

  1.  CITB SEATS Course; or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of ONE DAY, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Operatives (including those employed by supply chains)

A relevant competency scheme card including the CITB Health Safety & Environment Test where required, and renewed as necessary.

Note – in July 2015, the UKCG and NSCC (National Specialist Contractor’s Council) merged to form Build UK. A list of the members of the new body can be found here

Thoughts on a flat-packed wardrobe …

Just before Christmas, I assembled a flat pack wardrobe for my daughter, and it got me thinking about waste, or rather non-waste.

I was impressed. We ordered it over the internet, picked our day and a four hour delivery slot (10-2). The day before, the courier reduced this to a two hour slot (10-12), and on the day a text informed us that delivery would be within the hour, which it was. And at 11.30am, two packages totalling 88kg (big wardrobe with drawers …) were sitting on the floor ready for assembly. Unpacking took a while, with a small mountain of cardboard wrapping & polystyrene spacers set to one side. Not one scratch, ding, chip, mark … at all. Four poly bags of fittings, 319 items in total. By 5.30pm, it was fully assembled, in position, doors aligned, and safety-fixed back to the wall. And all that was left over was four poly bags. The fittings were exact. None missing, none left over. Spot on. Exactly what I needed, no more, no less.

(One beef, oh flat-pack-furniture industry … why polystyrene? Why not blocks of corrugated cardboard that can go into the recycling bin instead of the landfill bin? Just a thought … )

So, what impressed me? Well, firstly; I got what I wanted, when I wanted it. With excellent communications so that I could be at my daughters at the right time, and not waste any of my day sitting twiddling my thumbs wondering where it was, when it would arrive, or whether it would even arrive that day at all. Secondly, it arrived in good condition, carefully handled, with the right amount of packaging to ensure nothing was damaged or missing. No having to argue about delivery damage, or getting replacements. And thirdly, all 319 parts that were delivered fitted somewhere. They all went in … I had nothing whatsoever left over. They had confidence in their take-off & packing systems: nothing extra delivered “just in case”.

And in the New Year, I’ll be back on construction sites again, looking at all the surplus materials delivered “just in case”, lying forlornly in the rain and snow, and destined for the skips at the end of the job because they’re too heavy/awkward/tatty to take to use somewhere else. And I’ll be walking around picking up (as you do) all the screws/bolts/widgets strewn around the floor and putting them back into their nearby boxes. And thinking about my wardrobe experience. And the 120 million tonnes of waste that the UK construction industry generates every year.

The waste that costs an average project about 0.5% of the project value to dispose of. The waste that if you look at it properly and think of it’s true worth, really costs a project 10x-20x it’s disposal cost. (How much did you pay for the things you’re throwing away, their delivery, storage & handling on site, and eventual movement to the skip?) In other words, the waste in your skips, rather than being a minor consideration, represents 5-10% of extra profit, or improved competitiveness. And I know many Commercial Managers in the industry who would sell their grandmothers for a tiny slice of that. (Bet you smiled … because you know it’s true.)

A thought: The construction industry contributes about £100 billion a year to the UK’s GDP. What’s 5-10% of that?

Back to the wardrobe & the things I learned. It is possible to have just what you want, delivered just when you want it, adequately packaged and in good condition. We know that consolidation centres and just-in-time deliveries work for construction projects, but these are the exception rather than the rule as soon as you move away from congested city centres, but why? Isn’t it time to spend some of the £5b – £10b we waste every year embedding this approach into the industry so it becomes the norm everywhere rather than the exception? I have no doubt it would pay dividends immediately if properly done. And stop a lot of waste.

It’s time to stop talking about “recycling”, and “zero waste to landfill” as aspirational targets – these should now be the norm. It’s now time to start talking about completely removing waste from the construction process – just “Zero Waste”.

Concretesock News – Laing O’Rourke

Concretesock Laing

Browsing through Laing O’Rourke’s Annual Review 2015, I came across this interesting little snippet on page 80:

“We have successfully implemented ‘concrete socks’ on a number of projects. These fit over the ends of concrete wagon chutes and negate the need for wash-out facilities on site. This not only saves money but significantly reduces the risk of environmental incidents. We will now look to extend usage across the business”

A little birdie also tells me that 19 socks are also successfully in use by Lafarge to service a major ISG contract in Sinfin, Derby …

Looks like this brilliant but simple idea I’ve been writing about for a couple of years is finally finding it’s feet.

Earlier articles by me on Concretesocks:

Resource recovery – a waste of time?

Over the summer, I’ve been providing interim cover on a largish site for a couple of days a week. In the two days this week, I became aware of an issue with lost resources – hired-in tower scaffold components that had been dismantled, and pretty much lost around the site, for which the contractor was facing a potential bill of around £3000. So while I was doing my normal day-job of keeping an eye on everything, I began to keep half-an-eye open for the missing bits … and started spotting them in stray corners and buried under rubbish and other materials. So, as I hate the idea of these bits ending up in a skip in the last few days as the site was crash-cleared, I grabbed the component list and started to collect them together and drop them back into a storage unit. And over a couple of days, I recovered all but one component, with the final collection looking like this:

Tower scaffoldSo, was it worth it? In my mind yes, most definitely:

  • I managed to recover about a tonne of high quality aluminium tower scaffold components and get them back into productive use. (To be fair, the site would probably have done this anyway, provided they didn’t run out of time at the end of the job!)
  • This avoided about a tonne of aluminium entering the scrap metal market and being recycled, with the energy and emissions associated with this process
  • By recovering the original components, we avoided the hire company having to replace them, with all the manufacturing impacts associated with this process
  • And finally – it avoided the penalty charge to the contractor of at least 10x the cost of my time (probably less than half a day in total) to find them and get them back into the contractor’s control.
  • (Oh, and it was pretty good exercise too …!!)

OK, it’s not the normal day-job of a site Environmental Manager, but on the other hand, why not?

UKCG Ethical Stone Procurement

Recognising that there are environmental and ethical concerns about how dimensional stone is quarried and processed the UK Contractors Group encourages members to address the environmental and socio-economic issues in their supply chain through the following commitment:

“The UK Contractors Group, recognising the inherent risks in sourcing dimensional stone, will give preference to suppliers demonstrating leadership in the ethical stewardship of their supply chain. This can be evidenced through compliance with a recognised responsible sourcing scheme, certified by a third party, or active participation in the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI Stone Group), the TFT Responsible Stone Program, or the United Nations Global Compact, and membership of the Stone Federation GB.”

The concern has been brought about by quarry owners in India (70-80% of UK imports) and China (15% of UK imports) who have little awareness of the environmental impacts of quarrying, leading to deforestation, pollution of ground water and failed rehabilitation of abandoned quarries. In addition, media reports have highlighted labour abuses and other social issues in the quarried stone industry.

(“Dimensional stone” is natural stone that has been selected and fabricated – trimmed, cut, drilled, ground or other – to specific sizes and shapes)

Importing illegal timber

Greenpeace timber01Following a long-running investigation by Greenpeace into the laundering of illegally harvested logs in Brazil, on Friday 14th November Belgian authorities impounded a further two shipping containers of timber, bringing the total held to six. Under the EU’s Timber Regulations 2013, if the timber is eventually proved to have been illegally harvested, it is illegal to use this in the EU and the shipments will be permanently confiscated and presumably destroyed.

(Click on the image to go to the Greepeace article)

However, as the Timber Regs place a responsibility on importers to put into place a due diligence system to check the authenticity of the timber and to prevent the import and use of illegally-harvested timber into the EU, Greenpeace are now urging the authorities to take action against the companies that purchased the timber from the Brazillian supplier in the first place. Given the weight of evidence that Greenpeace have amassed and made public about the logging company’s activities over the past six months, it’s difficult to see how the importers can justify their actions under the legislation, and we may be about to have the first very-public showing of the Timber Regs’ sharp new teeth.

Better Cotton Initiative

BCottonICotton is one of the most commonly used “natural” materials, but to maximise its production, it is also one of the most intensively grown, relying on continued use of pesticides and fertilizers, and consuming vast amounts of fresh water in regions where water is often scarce.

Created in 2004 by a round table initiative and launched in 2005 with support from WWF, Oxfam. M&S, Adidas, IKEA and others, BCI sought to break this cycle by working with farmers & processors to develop more sustainable farming and production methods whilst at the same time improving the livelihoods and economic development of cotton-producing areas. Today, BCI is working throughout the world, including with over 100,000 farmers in Pakistan who, compared to conventional farming practices, on average use 36% less pesticides, 67% less synthetic fertilizers and 4% less water, as well as ensuring safer working practices and production methods throughout the supply chain.

The future? In the short term, BCI have targetted 2.5 million tonnes of Better Cotton produced by 1 million farmers globally by 2015. Then, by 2020, BCI aims to be working with 5 million farmers worldwide, producing 8.2 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton – about 30% of global cotton production. And choose carefully – it’s on your high street today.

(To visit the BCI website, click on the image above. On the same site you can also search through members to see which brands and companies are already supporting the BCI initiative and using Better Cotton in their products)

Volumetric concrete mixers

Utranazz mixerJust spotted this in The Construction Index, and thought it was worth a quick note. Not something completely new, but it looks like Utranazz and Elkins may have solved one of the biggest problems in this kind of concrete mixer – conveyor belt replacement – by developing a slide-out belt cassette.

Hopefully, if this proves to be practical, we may see more of this sort of unit on the road rather than traditional drum mixer deliveries, allowing exact quantities to be delivered, and part-load charges to be eliminated.