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A World Without Waste

Imagine a world where nothing is wasted. Everything is either designed to be recycled or easily broken down through the natural process of entropy into harmless atoms and molecules that do not adversely affect nature, people, or the animals that depend on the natural environment. And potentially where waste from one business is a resource for another.

ARKANCE is observing the International Day of Zero Waste celebrated on the 30th of March globally by acknowledging a few examples of inspiring innovations around the world with the collective aim of reducing waste as close as possible to zero.

In the Built Environment, resources such as raw building materials come from the earth and construction and infrastructure projects generate huge amounts of demolition waste.

Statista reported at the end of 2023 that there are no signs of slowing down waste generation and in fact the projection for global waste is expected to increase by around 70 percent by 2050. The Built Environment is responsible for about one third of this waste that comes from the 100 billion tonnes of raw materials extracted from the earth every year for the buildings and construction sector. Helene Carpentier, Global Head of Circular Economy & Zero Waste, CBRE Global Workplace Solutions explains why ''recycling is the last resort'' in an article for the World Green Building Council showing the zero waste hierarchy.

The call to collaborate and innovate for solutions to this 'wicked problem' has never been stronger. Businesses are already turning this challenge into an opportunity and thinking about a zero-waste future; innovative niche solutions are emerging, and new local and global economies are budding.

It is logical to assume that by increasing the efficiency with the use of building and manufacturing materials and thereby reducing consumption and waste, the pressure on the Earth's ability to replenish natural resources to keep up with consumption is significantly reduced. A more favorable solution for reducing waste is through designing for circularity in the Built Environment, so that materials used in building our cities are recoverable, kept in good condition, to be repurposed when needed. Cities of today are becoming the 'resource banks of the future' so it makes sense to design for disassembly making it easier to recover and take care of these valuable resources.

A Circular Economy Business Model

In the Built Environment, a circular economy means placing value on demolition waste so that the materials are kept in their best condition and continue to be used in the Built Environment for as long as they are valuable. This is done by leveraging circularity as a viable financial business model for a modern economy. A new International Standard for a Circular Economy ISO/TC 323 is currently being developed, with six principles guiding markets towards successful trade in a global circular economy. These six principles are systems thinking, value creation, value sharing, resource stewardship, resource traceability, and ecosystem resilience. These principles are all equally important, they lay the foundation to facilitate discussion and enable trading in a global circular economy and must be considered together.

In 2022, the World Green Building Council launched the Circularity Accelerator Partnership Program (CAPP) intended to speed up the transition to a circular economy. ARKANCE is a partner in this program and together with other industry partners, the Circular Built Environment Playbook was released last year.

The Circular Buildings Coalition (CBC) was also formed out of the partnership program with the aim of creating the Blueprints for Tomorrow: Shaping Europe’s Built Environment with Circular Construction. The CBC received 57 project submissions in response to the call last November in Barcelona for Blueprint Projects and each selected project is also a white paper.

One blueprint based on a circular economy model comes from Circotrade, a French company that captures a building’s unrealized value by listing, gauging, and trading a building’s components and their embodied carbon to create a reliable inventory for future reuse. This is a new tradable asset class and a model that helps to boost the uptake of secondary construction materials and brings the power of finance to the circular economy.

Collaborate to Innovate

Around the world, organizations and governments are collaborating to innovate on solutions to reduce waste to zero or avoid damaging pollutants such as plastic altogether.

In San Francisco, the local government is recycling to innovative levels in their respective region. Through their leadership, they are an inspiration to all players in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Operations and Manufacturing industry by preventing waste in the first place. To listen to their inspiring story on the ARKANCE Think.Future click here.

James Slattery, Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Specialist at San Francisco Environment Department shares how they prevent waste in the Built Environment.

 ‘’In San Francisco, we began looking at the process when we demolish structures, and what happens with the resources that are in them. We explored how we could recover them. Slowly that evolved into thinking about the upstream considerations, not just how can we pick through the waste and find resources that could maybe be recycled or downcycled, but how can we prevent the waste in the first place’’.

In New Zealand, a recent manufacturing innovation reduces waste in the packaging industry using 100% plant-based packing material called Zealafoam – now commercialized through the new company, ZealaFoam Holdings Limited. ZealaFoam is a 100% plant-based foam with the same attributes as Styrofoam. The technology has great potential to address big challenges for the food packing industry globally. Potentially this product will be developed for global markets to replace Styrofoam and plastic for food packaging. For more information on the innovation and partnership click here.

Florian Graichen, General Manager at Scion said '' The first commercial product, EcoBeans bean bag fill, was launched in 2022 and is now sold in New Zealand and Australia. ZealaFoam as the potential to address some big challenges for the packaging industry globally, particularly around its use of fossil fuels and issues with waste disposal!''

In Australia, Bradley Searle, Environment, Approvals and Regulatory Compliance Manager at BINGO INDUSTRIES aims to divert more than 90% of construction waste from landfill.

"Circularity is at the heart of BINGO’s vision of a waste free Australia. Through recycling and reusing materials, we divert as much as possible from landfill. BINGO’s state-of-the-art advanced mixed waste processing facility ‘MPC2’ allows us to achieve best in class diversion from landfill of 80 percent, with a committed pipeline of further growth initiatives that should see us achieve greater than 90% diversion from landfill.
But we're not just diverting waste, we are also producing high-quality, low carbon products for input into the materials and manufacturing sectors. Utilizing recycled materials will reduce the reliance on virgin materials and the need for energy-intensive extraction and manufacturing processes. Let's close the loop together and pave the way to a sustainable future!“

Waste not, want not

These are just a few examples of what is possible when caring hearts and smart minds come together with the intention of tackling the huge challenge of reducing construction and manufacturing waste. On International Day of Zero Waste, let's reflect on the wisdom of a simple proverb 'waste not, want not', a phrase which captures the essence of sustainable development dating back to the 18th century, ironically around the time of the Industrial Revolution.

By thinking future together, it is possible through digitalization to and design, build, and solve for a world our grandchildren and their children will inherit. Let's imagine a planet that thrives, where everyone is cared for, life is lived with dignity, and nothing is ever wasted. Who on earth wouldn't want that?

Authored by Johanne Gallagher, ARKANCE Strategic Delivery Lead, Sustainability.


For over 20 years the brands under ARKANCE company, have been providing software solutions and professional services to Architectural, Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing industries helping them to understand the role of digitalization for the built environment. Businesses both large and small utilize ARKANCE's dedicated industry experts to help navigate technologies as they emerge, driving efficiency and improving workflows. With a global focus on reducing emissions and increased focus directed towards industry, ARKANCE are now turning their attention to providing the linkages between using technology to digitize, and at the same time leveraging the valuable data insights it brings to build more sustainably. ARKANCE are passionate about helping their customers understand how the technologies they use today can help them to step towards net zero in the future, to build a better world.


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