Builders Come Bottom of Construction Trade Recycling League Table

Builders Come Bottom of Construction Trade Recycling League Table

Messy vans, messy skips – they’ve got a lot to learn from the squeaky clean plumbers

When it comes to the construction trade, everybody knows that a tidy site is a safe site, and that smart waste management prevents accidents and saves money.

But it turns out that builders themselves come bottom of the league table when it comes to site waste management and recycling, according a national waste company. They’ve also found that the construction sector has fallen behind the rest of industry on waste issues.

According to , it’s plumbers and electricians who recycle the best, with some making the point of removing every last scrap of waste from their job to ensure it ends up re-used or put in the right bin, and it’s their example that the rest of the trade needs to follow to minimise their spend on waste removal.

“It’s probably because plumbers know the value of their waste that they make sure that they clean up after themselves,” said spokesman Mark Hall, “but that doesn’t mean to say that all plumbers and sparks are complete angels”. says that a busy building site, sometimes with dozens of people working on any given day from several different trades, can prove a problem when it comes to effective waste management.

“You’ve got a lot of people coming and going all the time, and it’s tough filling them in on site procedures. To some, one skip or bin looks very much like another, so there’s always the problem of cross-contamination of waste,” says Mark Hall. “More waste means more money being spent on its management. These are important lessons for the construction sector.” asked dozens of workers in the construction trade about their rubbish habits, and found that builders’ and bricklayers’ reputations went before them when it came to leaving waste behind. According to BW, when asked which trades were best and worst at sorting their waste, they were ranked from worst to best like this:

  • Builders and bricklayers
  • Groundworks
  • Plasterers
  • Painters and decorators
  • Scaffolders
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers

The league table only tells part of the story, says – construction trade workers were not slow to point out their colleagues’ bad habits.

  • Ged, who’s a site foreman told us: “We’ve got builders and labourers who just chuck the wreckage from their lunch in the wrong skip, and somebody’s got to fish it out before we get fined. That somebody’s usually me, isn’t it?”
  • Gregor, who’s a labourer, owns up: “You’re right. My van is real mess, I never throw anything out until I have to, and then it’s straight in the skip. And yeah, I’m rubbish at dealing with my rubbish at the end of the day. But that’s the work experience lad’s job, isn’t it?”
  • Farooq, who is a painter and decorator after starting out as a labourer said: “You just watch some people throw wood off-cuts in the metals bins, or plaster waste going in with the wood. It’s not exactly difficult, is it?”
  • Bricklayer Michael told BW: “You see the plumbers going off to their vans for their lunch, they take every scrap on rubbish with them. They’re like magpies.

However, despite their reputation for site cleanliness, some plumbers and electricians – supposedly the tidiest in the trade – own up to their own bad habits.

  • Jim says: “Sure, I take every last scrap of plumbing waste home with me, because I might need it on another job. The garage is full of bits and pieces, and it drives my wife up the wall.”
  • Meanwhile, electrician Bob (who didn’t want to use his real name) told us that he’s guilty of one of the worst sins in the book: “I’m sometimes too tired to drop my rubbish off at the tip, and I’ll just hide it in my domestic bin, under a rubbish bag. I know it’s a bit illegal, but at least it’s not fly-tipping.”

Bob’s risking a fine if he’s caught mixing trade waste with domestic rubbish, says. And the fine could be unlimited if any tradesman resorts to fly-tipping rather than recycling on site, or delivering their waste to the local tip where they’ll pay trade rates.

There’s a serious message behind this, says ‘s Mark Hall. The building trade lags behind the rest of industry when it comes to recycling and it’s costing them money.

“Everything’s about bottom line these days,” says Hall, “And smart builders can save money and increase profits.”

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