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Plasterboard Waste Sustainable Improvement Study

The construction industry has improved significantly in recent years, but is arguably still lagging behind other industries. With the recent publication of the government’s Construction 2025 strategy paper, the industry is under pressure to meet the government’s targets.

Five years ago Astins embarked on a continuous improvement journey to reduce plasterboard waste. During this time we have reduced this waste by 40% and have now published a report to share our knowledge and findings with the wider industry.

Our initial studies were focused on site based processes and in particular, the reuse of off-cuts. However, as we concentrated on waste generation it became apparent that issues from the supply chain, as well as the external client, also have a significant impact on the production of plasterboard waste.

The Lean Construction Institute’s “Eight Waste” model was used to facilitate our study into the cause of plasterboard waste and help identify the practical steps Astins could take to reduce it. The model’s eight wastes are; transport, inventory, motion, waiting, over processing, over production, defect and skill. Identifying the influencing factor, in this case, the impact of external suppliers, highlighted an opportunity to engage the supply chain to help reduce the overall production of waste.

Our findings from the “Eight Waste” model are summarised as:

Transport: High quality packaging would potentially protect the boards from being damaged by heavy machinery and advanced transfer tools can reduce the damage of the boards during transfer.

Inventory: Creating ownership and improving the flexibility of ‘Green Rooms’ increases the effectiveness for the use of off-cuts, reducing the plasterboard waste.

Motion: Narrower and lighter boards appear to give packs greater rigidity, resulting in less material breakage. In addition, smaller boards were found to have a positive benefit for the Operatives’ health and safety.

Waiting: Sufficient storage space and trestles to store boards at 600mm were found to allow ‘improved’ storage showing significant benefits in reducing waste and improving H&S.

Over production: Design has a significant impact on waste and is clearly an area where significant improvements are possible; early engagement with the main contractor will help facilitate this.

Over processing: Manufacturers should be further engaged to minimise on site waste production.

Defect: A good quality control management system was found to be effective in reducing and indeed preventing the defects that lead to plasterboard waste.

Skill: Improving skills and understanding at all levels of the business contributed to reducing overall waste production.

This study has also prompted safety improvements by highlighting the benefits of smaller 900mm plasterboard over traditional 1200mm boards. This formed the basis for a collaborative research project on the effects of plasterboard weight on our Operative’s health and wellbeing.

Despite the success so far, there is still inconsistency across our sites as project specific design can have a significant impact (both positive and negative) on the production of plasterboard waste. Consideration at the ‘input’ stage (design) can have significantly more influence than at the ‘output’ stage (re-use of off-cuts). Through continued efforts and greater collaboration with our supply chain we are confident we can continue to reduce our plasterboard waste.

For more details on this study or a copy of the full report please email info@astins.com