Better Buildings Partnership members turning their sites to the waste problem

The Better Buildings Partnership’s Operational Waste Guidelines may still be at draft stage, with closing date for submissions on 7 November, but that hasn’t stopped members implementing some of the elements.

According to BBP partnership manager Esther Bailey there’s growing demand for better understanding around waste.

The guidelines, developed after extensive consultation with waste industry operators, contractors and BBP members, aim to tackle some of the key issues around waste from “first principles”.

“What gets measured gets managed,” Ms Bailey told The Fifth Estate.

But there has been a lack of transparent and consistent reporting by contractors and resource recovery firms back to the clients. Among the major challenges for building managers is assessing how much content there is of the various waste streams, what streams are getting recycled and where, and how well they are being recycled.

“We are trying to get a baseline established to start from,” Ms Bailey said.

The guidelines set out methodologies for establishing volumes and weights of different types of waste, as some contractors measure by weight, some by volume, and sometimes waste streams handled by a single contractor are measured differently from one building to the next. The guidelines also give consistent definitions for materials, and suggest model clauses for green leases around waste that can help ensure accountability for both owners and for tenants.

Then there’s the problem of contamination – like the rotten apple core in the paper recycling bin.

The guidelines provide a mechanism that has largely been lacking for building managers – to get feedback quickly from contractors about contamination issues, making it easier, for quick change.

It also sets out model clauses for contracts between building managers and owners and their waste contractors.

“It’s a multi-stakeholder game, and everybody’s got to be singing the same tune, Ms Bailey said.

.”The guidelines are geared around the procurement process. We talked to the waste contractors and the cleaners, and we asked, ‘where does the system break? What are the problems’?

“We also went to all the BBP members and cherry-picked the best bits of their contracts.

“[The guidelines] are not obliging anyone to move to a gold standard, it’s a framework and people pick their own level.”

“There is a great cluster of issues and threads that need to be unpicked [around waste] to create a consistent platform with checks and balances that can shine a light on the problems so you can get the most effective resource recovery rate possible.”

Another big question Ms Bailey said is, “when you say ‘recycling’, what does that mean? Is [the resource] meaningfully entering the system as a useable product?”

The next step for the BBP is to undertake work around the “conversation inside the building” about tenants and staff behaviour, and also to engage more with the cleaning contractors who are the physical link between the office bins and the waste contractor’s receptacles.

The toolkit provided by the guidelines will be compatible with the new Green Star Performance tool, as that is focused on management frameworks.

“You need to design in the solutions. You can’t stand at the end of the process and wring your hands. You have to get into the detail of little bits of the process, and then adjust that little bit, and it has a cascading effect.”

Guidelines can apply to retail

While the guidelines have been designed with the commercial property sector in mind, Ms Bailey said BBP members who also hold property in the retail sector have given feedback that while the waste streams are slightly different for retail, the tools and methodology of the guidelines are just as applicable.

Ultimately, the framework provide the right kind of groundwork for the circular economy, which Ms Bailey said “emerges from a commercial mindset.”

Waste facilities

It’s also a “soft way” of starting to shine a light on what the waste management facilities are doing.

“We would like the contractors to put their weight on the facilities a bit,” Ms Bailey said.

Because under the guidelines contractors can have a methodology to report back to their client the precise data on where various waste streams have gone, they then have a means to turn this around and ensure facilities are being transparent and accountable.

Ways are suggested of asking and answering the key questions of, “who is responsible?” and “How will you check?”

The open consultation on the draft guidelines closes on November 7, and Ms Bailey said the model contract clauses for procurement of waste services will be appearing increasingly in documentation from now onwards.

“This means there will be a load of market opportunities for those who want to play at the top end,” Ms Bailey said.

  • Download the guidelines and have your say here.