Waste management. Where good practice in sustainable construction should begin


In this blog we address the issue of the circular economy, and outline why we believe the construction industry must join the dots between waste management and procurement if the Environment Agency’s Greening Government Commitment and Sustainable Construction targets are to be met

Sustainable construction is the topic of the moment.  The good news is that an ever-increasing number of civil and marine engineers are now procuring reclaimed timber (rather than new) within projects.  However, there has been little change to the waste management model.  All too often redundant timbers are ripped out as part of the waste removal process, before reclamation and re use possibilities are considered.  And, even though it is a crime to throw away, burn, compost or recycle reusable timber (EU Waste Framework Directive 2008, UK Waste Regulations 2011) for which there is a market, the practice still occurs with alarming frequency.

But why is this, and what can be done to improve the situation?


Waste Management – Yesterday’s Model

Currently, the built environment model is linear, designed around the production of new materials which are thrown away once they’re no longer required.  It’s this status-quo that’s hindering a move to a more sustainable circular economy.

Janine Davies-Tutt explains: “Frequently we’re contacted by marine or civil engineers who request we remove unwanted redundant timber.  On the surface this request is a positive step forward.  It complies with the EU Waste Framework Directive and ensures that unwanted timber is not burnt or sent to landfill.

However, all too often as redundant timber is leaving the site on our lorry, new timber is arriving on another to be used within the project.  Construction is stuck in a linear model where waste management and procurement exist in separate silos – a situation which fails to capitalise on the true potential of the circular economy”.

Read more about the circular economy, and reclaimed timber’s place within it in our recent blog – Timber in the Circular Economy.


Waste Management & Procurement – A Joint Approach

We believed that, in order to meet the Environment Agency’s Greening Government Commitment and Sustainable Construction targets, civil and marine engineering firms should adopt a circular economy approach, following these three steps:

  • Waste management – Identify, at the earliest stage of a project, how best to effectively reclaim and reuse marine and river defence timber
  • Sustainable procurement – Specify reclaimed timber rather than new, assuring a more sustainable approach to procurement
  • Circular Economy – Join the dots by developing an ongoing strategy combining waste management with procurement, look for opportunities to reclaim and re-use timber within existing projects where possible


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We can help you understand how to effectively reclaim and re-use timber within your marine or civil engineering project.


About Ashwells Reclaimed Timber

Ashwells Reclaimed Timber is a tropical reclamation specialist based in Bulphan, Essex.   We reclaim and repurpose FSC certified tropical timber and temperate British hardwoods.  From our timber mill we supply hard and softwoods to be re-purposed into bespoke pieces, from garden planters and seating to street furniture and sea defences.  We’re also proud to collaborate with award winning landscape designers, architects and civil engineers, and our reclaimed tropical timber can be seen in major projects across the UK, including hotel and restaurant chains, the Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court, The Eden Project and London Zoo.