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Setting up a waste management system

Make the process of managing waste smoother and help reduce damage to salvaged or recycled materials.

Here are some tips for establishing a system for managing waste on site and ensuring adequate site preparation before construction or deconstruction begins:

  • Keep a tidy site.
  • Careful estimating and ordering.
  • Just-in-time delivery.
  • Efficient packaging.
  • Good storage for new material.
  • Clear communication and training.
  • Designated centralised cutting areas.
  • High construction standards.
  • Dedicated waste storage area.
  • Celebrate success.

Keep a tidy site

Keeping the site tidy is especially important if space is tight. If a building site is well managed and tidy, materials are less likely to get damaged or lost and workers can be more efficient with materials. This leads to savings in both wastes and costs, and there's the extra benefit of increasing site safety.

Careful estimating and ordering

  • Surplus material accounts for 14% of construction wastes so take care to estimate exactly what you need - plan for less than half of the typical waste percentage to avoid overstocking. Negotiate with suppliers to take back unused materials, packaging or off-cuts.
  • Use standardised components and prefabricated products or ask product suppliers to manufacture building components to your specification to reduce off-cuts on site.

Just-in-time delivery

  • Arrange delivery of materials only when they're needed. This will reduce the time they are stored on site and reduce the chances of wastage resulting from damage, unnecessary handling or theft.
  • Have fragile fixtures delivered and installed as close as possible to completion date.
  • Have a designated area for unloading new materials.
  • Check quantity, condition and quality on delivery. Report any discrepancies immediately and send unwanted products back to the supplier.
  • Reject inferior goods if their quality will result in additional waste. Send them back to the supplier.
  • Report careless delivery staff to the supplier.

Efficient packaging

  • Ask suppliers to deliver in sturdy, returnable pallets and have them back-haul empty containers when delivering goods.
  • Talk to suppliers about how they can provide materials with reduced, reusable or recyclable packaging.
  • Check that any packaging adequately protects the goods, keeping them dry and dust-free during storage.

Good storage for new material

  • Determine where new materials will be stored to prevent loss from weather or other damage. Make sure materials are stored away from vehicles and driveways. Put signage up if it helps.
  • Store new materials separately from waste materials.
  • Provide secure storage for hazardous materials.

Clear communication and training

  • Include waste reduction instructions or standards in your contracts, in your induction material and other communications with staff and subcontractors. Make it a regular item on informal work meetings around the toolbox and project management meetings.
  • Train staff and subcontractors during induction and team meetings to use the waste management system and consider incentives to keep them interested through the project.
  • Provide detailed drawings and instructions to staff to minimise mistakes, rework and temporary works.
  • Develop an information sheet to explain the waste management system or create a waste section in your regular induction information.
  • Use clear signage around the site to explain the waste management system. Some examples are:
    • using the hazard identification board
    • staff notice board
    • signage on bins and at the waste storage area
    • signs on site entrances.
  • Keep a current list of recycling operators in the site office for easy reference. Use the REBRI waste management plan [WORD, 115KB] to list the specific recycling operators' details for the project.
  • Put the waste minimisation record up on the site noticeboard and update it regularly to let everyone know about progress.
  • Let people know who to approach if they have a problem, idea or other suggestion about waste.

Designated centralised cutting areas

Have designated cutting or preparation areas for timber, joinery, cladding and tiling and store the off-cuts in a single location for easy access and reuse. Staff and contractors are more likely to reuse off-cuts if they are easily found and are stored separately from other wastes. Provide signage that the waste is for reuse, not disposal.

High construction standards

  • Ensure materials and products are installed as specified to enhance longevity.
  • Talk with suppliers about the latest methods for product installation and uses so that you can reduce off-cuts, mistakes and damage that all create waste during construction.

Dedicated waste storage area

  • Have a single waste storage area (away from storage of new materials) with clear signage on how to sort and store recyclables. When designating the storage area, consider space for loading and unloading containers, need for hoists etc. This may involve discussing possible requirements with property owners, neighbours or the city or district council.
  • Provide separate bins, pallets or other containers for various materials.
  • Ensure containers are clearly labelled. Use the RONZ recycling symbols or some other type of clear signage on containers - see
  • Make sure recycling containers are:
    • easily accessible
    • at the same place on the site as all the other bins
    • taken away only when they are full.
  • Negotiate recycling paybacks with local resource recovery firms.
  • Contact waste recyclers and arrange containers for waste and suitable times for removing these from site.

Celebrate success

Have incentives such as morning tea shouts if waste reduction is achieved on the project to encourage and congratulate staff for a job well done.

More information