The changing face of construction waste management


What will the next decade in construction waste management bring? 

We sat down with CEO, Edward Crossan, to get his take on the major changes we expect to see in construction waste management in the coming years…

Will robotics take our jobs?

There’s been a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) in the last year and this could bring many improvements to the waste sector.  I’m sure we will see the introduction of more, and smarter, robotics in the coming years, improving efficiency of picking and sorting of different materials.  These will affect lower grade work but whilst potentially reducing these entry level positions, technology developments should result in more higher-grade roles, for example in equipment maintenance. Employees will need to be educated and upskilled to take advantage of these new, more rewarding careers.  New robotics should also improve health and safety performance of the sector – something which I’m sure will be welcomed by all. 

As construction clients seek greater reuse and recycling from their waste contractors, I expect to see these companies embrace new technology, not just for efficiency gains, but to enable them to move waste up the hierarchy and retain materials’ value.  Well known for our commitment to investing in state-of-the-art technology, you will hear much more from Powerday on this over the next few years.   

Similar service, new transport challenges

Whilst I believe waste services are unlikely to change fundamentally in the foreseeable future, there will of course be changes in waste transportation.  Forward-thinking businesses like Powerday are already working towards net zero targets and beginning to decarbonise fleets (read about our new electric skip vehicles).  But as construction clients get to grips with Scope 3 emissions, and as the government’s transport strategy takes effect, all waste service providers will be driven to tackle their carbon emissions, with transportation being a huge part.  The upfront investment needed for electric vehicles may present too big a barrier to the smaller end of the waste sector, with many of these businesses likely to fall by the wayside.  For the rest of us, it will require new transport strategies and approaches to investment.  To add to this, we expect further driver shortages as less people want to do the job so we are all going to need to improve in engaging, attracting and retaining the drivers of the future.  These two challenges may combine to boost the employment of non-road waste transport such as barges and trains which would be a positive development for London’s roads, benefiting both the environment and our communities.           

Changing materials, same old problems?

We are beginning to see less asbestos coming into our facilities these days but this has been replaced by cladding insulation which is now coming off buildings in large quantities.  What these problem materials have in common is their lack of recyclability, and this doesn’t match up with construction clients’ drive towards zero waste.          

By the time a material becomes waste, despite our best efforts, the options for what happens to it next become severely restricted.  As the construction industry moves to address the challenges of building more sustainably, we are going to need to see much more collaboration – this will be particularly important between product manufacturers and the waste sector, to enable products to be designed not just for use but with their end-of-life in mind.  In our experience, material reuse and closed loop recycling require extensive collaboration throughout the whole value chain – we have seen this in our successful closed loop window glass recycling with McLaren and St Gobain.  There are great opportunities to innovate and collaborate, finding different ways of working to avoid the same old problems with new materials.

Greater social and environmental responsibility

It’s impossible to ignore the climate emergency – the warnings of scientists, the changes we have seen for ourselves, and the disasters these changes bring.  We are all going to have to work harder and move faster to decarbonise and fight to keep temperature changes to within 1.5oc.  We are also hearing more and more about the wider ecological havoc we are wreaking on our planet – biodiversity loss, water pollution, soil degradation, microplastics contamination.  We will need to find ways to tackle these additional challenges.  I believe the waste management sector is well placed to support progress across the environmental agenda and protect our planet for future generations.  

At the same time, as social inequality continues to widen, I believe we have an ever-greater responsibility to support those less advantaged than ourselves.  I think we will continue to see pressure on businesses to be socially responsibile and deliver more social value.  At Powerday, we will be linking up with our clients and other partners to support them to do that through our established partnerships and connections, and the Powerday Foundation.

Reshaping our industry

The challenges for the construction and waste sectors are huge.  We are already seeing consolidation with many owner-founders driven out by the sheer pace of change.  Higher costs and levels of investment, increasing compliance requirements, and the demand for zero waste, net zero and social value creation are overwhelming to many but present huge opportunities to progressive businesses, like Powerday.  Whilst it’s hard to see these long-established regional independents lose their foothold on the industry, the next decade will see our industry take a new shape.  At Powerday, we continue to evolve, developing the services and infrastructure we need to lead the change to a cleaner, more responsible future.  

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We were pleased to have awarded this contract to Powerday.  They have delivered their services efficiently and reliably, achieved high recycling rates and 100% recovery, meeting our requirements throughout the project.  They have been easy to deal with, reasonable and fair.  We have been particularly impressed with their account management and waste reporting capabilities

Dave France, Project Director, Ecoworld Ballymore

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