While many people focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling on a smaller scale as the primary means of slowing global warming, there may be a larger element at work. Construction waste has consistently been a significant contributor to landfills worldwide, and may be accelerating climate change.
Pollution and waste across the world has been a growing problem for decades, however, most people have taken a personal approach to addressing it. The problem may instead be larger than what individuals on their own can solve; at this point, the problem is severe enough where consumption patterns will need to change in order to properly address it. Today the world makes and consumes about 600 billion pounds of plastic yearly, and the market is still growing about 5% a year. Entire industries, such as construction, will need to shift in order to properly curb the impact of pollution and waste on the environment. While many industries contribute to global waste, construction is among the most wasteful.
Construction across the globe has historically contributed significantly to the amount of waste in landfills, with much of it being material that could either be recycled or reused. Wood makes up roughly 20% to 30% of construction and demolition waste, and in many cases, this wood would be able to be reclaimed and repurposed for other building projects. Wood in construction can often cause other environmental problems as well, with many types of wood being sourced irresponsibly or illegally. These practices can leave entire ecosystems at risk when left unchecked.
Unfortunately, with current industry patterns, the damage construction is doing to the environment is likely to continue. The volume of construction waste worldwide every year is projected to nearly double to 2.2 billion tons by the year 2025. This number includes waste generated at every step during the construction project, from initial excavation to final touches. However, there are some potential options for addressing this problem before it reaches this point.
In the face of climate change and an industry that needs changing, some construction methods are starting to rise in popularity. Construction techniques that reduce waste during building are slowly gaining traction, including methods that make use of prefabricated pieces. ICF walls, for example, are constructed one row at a time, with end blocks being cut to fit to reduce waste.
Additionally, modern technology is helping to cut down on construction waste through new and innovative means. Some are even 3D-printing homes and other structures to practically eliminate waste during construction. Technological advancements are making it easier than ever to build new structures with as little impact on the environment as possible.
As new technologies develop, the construction industry is likely to shift to reduce the amount of waste it creates. However, if these techniques and technologies aren’t adopted, construction waste will continue to accumulate and cause problems for the environment. While recycling and keeping track of your own environmental impact is important, without industries also following this trend, the global climate will continue to suffer.