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Manage building waste
Some 6.25 million tonnes (34%) of building waste went to landfill in Australia in 2010-11. Sending building materials to landfill is a waste of resources that could otherwise be used in a variety of ways. There are a number of ways you can minimise building waste–and you may be able to sell some of your used materials to recover some costs.
- Save money
- Recycled products can be cheaper than new products
- Add historic and unique touches by re-using products and materials
- Keep good quality, re-usable and useful materials out of landfill
At a glance
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- Ease 2
- Impact 2
You can reduce consumption of resources by building smaller houses which are better designed for your needs. This is the most effective way to conserve precious resources for use by future generations and reduce waste. It also lowers costs.
When designing your home or extension, think about what's needed and see if you can design a smaller house or extension than originally planned. For example, many people design large dining rooms, formal living areas and extra bathrooms but rarely use them. Consider some of our simple renovations for homeowners and renters that make clever use of existing spaces.
A smaller house is the most effective way to conserve resources and reduce waste. It will also be cheaper to build and much cheaper to run in the long term because they require less heating, lighting and maintenance.
If using recycled products, you may be able to design final dimensions of windows, kitchen units or even rooms around available material sizes.
Choose durable materials and finishes as they should last longer.
If you’re building or renovating, work with your designer and builder to plan how you will minimise waste during the project and recycle leftover building materials. This will reduce demand for new materials and lower the volume of waste going to landfill.
If your designer or builder doesn't have a waste plan, talk to them about making one. Be clear about your goals about reducing waste and gain agreement from people you're working with—you may want to get this in writing. For example, a waste plan may include arrangements to separate materials on site and a contract for it to be collected.
Up to 90% of critical decisions, including waste minimisation, are made during the design stage so it's important to talk about waste at the beginning of a project.
You may be able to sell used building materials to recover some costs.
When building or renovating, use recycled materials and materials with high recycled content where it is fit for purpose—this helps to lower waste volumes and increase the viability of recycling which in turn will develop the market for recycled resources. Buying recycled goods can also save you a lot of money and add character to your home.
If you're renovating or building yourself, don't forget this important rule. Inaccurate cutting can lead to a lot of wasted product. Use off-cuts where possible.
If your house was built before 1970, there's a good chance that it contains lead-based paint which can be hazardous to your health. If you're doing any renovations or maintenance that could disturb paint containing lead, take precautions to protect yourself, your family from dust or chips of paint—even small amounts.
You also need to dispose of lead-contaminated waste properly. Contact your local council or responsible state authority before renovation or building work begins to ask how you should dispose of your lead-contaminated waste. If you have a builder or project manager, discuss this with them.
Recommended precautions and information on waste disposal are outlined in Lead alert—The six step guide to painting your home. The Lead alert facts: Lead in house paint fact sheet has further information about lead-based paint.
Although asbestos is no longer allowed to be used for building products for the home, it was commonly used in homes built before the mid-1980s. It can be found under eaves but may also be found as roofing, wall linings and cladding. Generally, home building products containing asbestos are not a health risk but if asbestos is disturbed, its fibres may be released into the air and inhaled.
If you're renovating a home that was built before the mid-1980s or suspect you have asbestos, contact your local council or responsible state authority. Always seek professional advice about managing asbestos in your home. Removal is not always recommended, but if it is removed, it needs to be done by a specialist. Asbestos removal contractors are listed in the Yellow Pages.
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There are three easy ways to cut down waste that ends up in landfill: reduce, re-use and recycle.