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How Recycling and Sustainability is the Key to the Future of Construction – and the World

by Daniel Green

Think about the term sustainable. Not in terms of environmental responsibility though. It simply means that something has the ability to continue. To still be there long into the future. This is what our governments and leaders want for construction, and ultimately, the earth. For them to be sustained long into the future. Sounds like a pretty reasonable goal, right?

Previously, we discussed how to develop a sustainable construction industry, because at present, ours isn’t – due to excessive waste and a lack of recycling. The article covered fairly mainstream approaches such as new products and mindsets. Except we haven’t even scratched the surface. This time we’re going a little left field. You may even find yourself reading about health and happiness as results of sustainable practices. Or even national security! These are easily dismissed simply because they can’t be measured, and we humans struggle with things that aren’t tangible. Believe me, they are just as important – if not more so.

Read on.

Recycling Can Save Money

Earth’s resources are finite. There is a point at which the last piece of iron ore will be pulled from the ground. When the last drop of oil rolls into the last barrel. As these moments grow near the law of supply and demand will see the value of these resources increases. The flow on effect will very likely see construction becoming wildly expensive. If however, we begin a more concerted effort to recycle then we can provide some pricing equilibrium. Eventually it will be more cost effective to recycle a product or resource than to throw it away.

There Will Be New Sub-Industries

One flow on effect of construction recycling will be the springing up of new businesses that will be necessary to complete new recycling chains. Much in the way that Sims Metal does now. More businesses in those chains means more overall revenue, a product of which will be more income which will help grow the economy. A strong economy is often a sign of a good standard of living – which is a globally recognised measure of the health, wealth and happiness of the citizens of a nation.

You’ll Feel Better About The World and Your Future

That we know of, we are the first generation in recorded history [about 6k years] who have been repeatedly told our world will end in our lifetime due to circumstances beyond our control. DO NOT DISCOUNT THE EFFECT OF THIS. Hope is a driving force of humanity. Throughout history hope has freed people from slavery, raised nations out of poverty and toppled dictators. Taking action towards sustainability, however small, brings control back into our hands. It is a sure fire way to regenerate your own positive outlook in the face of such dire consequences.

You may scoff at the idea that you can make a difference just by filling up the site yellow top at day’s end. The truth is that you never know what good will come of your actions, however small. Gandhi will vouch for that.

It Will Make You Healthier

The thing about all our earthly water is that it’s connected. The stuff in the water table below our landfill is the same stuff coming out of the tap. Sure, it gets filtered, chemically treated and blasted with UV light [although there’s an argument that this is counter-productive]. Even if the treatments are sound, nothing is 100% effective. With thousands of plumbing joints between the treatment plant and your tap its very possible that some of them leak. Have you ever felt sick after drinking water from a certain tap? This is likely because of pollutants.

Recycling lessens landfill, thus reducing water contamination. As humans we’re 70% water so it’s probably a good idea to be made of the cleanest stuff there is.

It Will Make You Happier

Thoughtless consumption is the plague of capitalism. And until there is a shift in its structure, the entire system is built on the purchase of new things. Those purchases, especially if they’re cheap, don’t have an inherent value to us. This is because we didn’t earn them as much as we did say, a hundred years ago when a] they cost more, or b] we made them ourselves. This is one of the disadvantages of wealthy civilisations.

Recycling and repairing things regenerates their value to you. If you fix something instead of replacing it then it also gives you a sense of ownership, personal power and achievement. It requires more work but things that are worth it usually do. Next time your Stanley Fat Max won’t retract you could always lubricating it instead of throwing it away. I bet you feel like a champion afterwards!

It Prevents Loss of Natural Life

In my experience, construction workers generally love getting out of the city and into nature. Ask the bloke next to you and see if their eyes light up at the mere thought of it. Yet the same people have buried asbestos to prevent paying tipping fees, let hydraulic oil leak into drains and two-stroke run leaf blowers when a broom will do. Everything on this planet linked and one day there could be no more nature to get away to.

You’ll Have Better Time Away From Work

Whilst we’ve terraformed a serious amount of the planet, much of the world remains a beautiful array of natural landscapes that can literally take your breath away. There’s something unreal about kicking back and taking in all that stunning scenery. No noisy circ saws, no grating reverse beepers. Until you notice a slew of rubbish nearby that’s been left behind by some grub in a DMax because they couldn’t be bothered recycling it. Destroying the environment is a completely preventable action.

It Forces Us to Develop New Green Tech

Currently, recycling some construction products is more costly than digging them out of the ground. This isn’t sustainable, both environmentally and financially. If we continue to push recycling then stout minds will create new technology to make the most of it.

One example hemp. This super product has hundreds of uses from clothing to oils to construction insulation – including many more uses not yet invented.

It Can Help Maintain National Security

With finite resources and seemingly infinite population growth and consumption, the day will come when there just isn’t enough to go around. When that finally happens there won’t be enough diplomacy on earth for things to end well. Humans are humans after all.

If you think I’m being dramatic, In 2011, the US Military began allocating resources to an entirely new division: water security. Reading between the lines means at some point in the near future they hold a belief that water will become scarce – scarce enough to use warfare to defend it. They’re not alone, with governments worldwide actioning plans to protect their resources from foreign intervention, Australia included.

Recycling can slow down that ticking clock. With enough dedication it may even prevent that moment from happening at all.

In Conclusion

Not to get too dire [although unfortunately that’s what’s needed], the time to prevent irreversible planetary change is coming up on us pretty quickly. We may even be at that point right now. We should think about acting like we’re here to stay.

Because we are.

We Get It Done, Sustainably

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