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The economics of recycling

28 October 2019

Recycling and reusing valuable waste materials offers a growing opportunity for the construction and demolition (C&D) industry to help bring positive environmental outcomes and reduce business costs.

While recycling is well-known for its environmental benefits (energy and resource conservation as well as reduction in greenhouse gas, water and air pollution), a growing number of industries are recognising its economic advantages.

In Australia, landfill charges can range from $42 per tonne to over $100 per tonne. In addition to this cost imposed by the landfill operators, the NSW government inflicts a landfill levy in certain areas. The 2016-17 levy rates were $135.70 per tonne in metropolitan areas and $78.20 per tonne in regional areas, making waste disposal a costly business.

For businesses such as those in the C&D market, waste disposal fees can be particularly hefty as a large proportion of their waste is made up of heavy materials, such as asphalt, bricks and concrete.

The good news for the C&D industry is that much of its waste can be recycled or reused. Timber, concrete, plastics, wood, metals, cardboard, asphalt and mixed site material, such as soil and rocks, present a whole host of recycling opportunities. 

In addition, the reclamation rates for high-value commodities, such as metals and hardwood timbers, have grown over the last few years, bringing increased revenue opportunity.

Recycling makes both environmental sense and economic sense. By recycling on-site, businesses can eliminate or at least cut down the cost of transporting and disposing of materials, while keeping the air cleaner and reducing landfill.

As the challenge of source depletion and environmental sustainability grows, many industries are making important changes to address these concerns. A growing number of businesses are coming up with innovative ways to turn waste into much-needed resources. If in doing so they are able to save on the cost of waste disposal and gain potential revenue from the sale of recyclables. It's a win-win scenario!

Also, for those construction companies that think recycling is just too big of a hassle, this might be an incentive to start thinking differently and working towards a ‘world without waste’ philosophy.

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