On February 9, MPP Eleanor McMahon and Katharine Bambrick, CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, joined members of the community at the Burlington ReStore to hear the results of a five-month study conducted by Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga.

Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit organization that builds and rehabilitates homes and uses a model of affordable home ownership to bridge a gap for low-income working families. In 2017, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga received a $42,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to study the impact of the construction industry on landfills and develop an evidence-based model to reduce construction industry waste.

Going From Lot to Landfill

1.2 million tonnes of waste is generated by the home construction and demolition sector in Ontario each year, which makes up about one-third of the waste produced in the province. 88 percent of this waste ends up in landfills. With such a huge increase in residential building in Halton and Peel, there is an urgent need for new strategies to reuse and recycle construction materials from build sites.

Our research project focused on the need for more source separation to reduce impact of the construction industry on landfill. Source separation is the process of sorting waste on construction sites in order to keep reusable and recyclable materials out of landfill. In Ontario, commercial construction is regulated to ensure proper source separation but the same standards are not applied to residential home building.

Through our research, it was revealed that only 28 percent of home builders are taking direct action to manage their construction waste and only 33 percent of home builders see source separation as an option for them. The study also revealed that the three main barriers to onsite source separation, according to study participants, were cost, not enough space for multiple bins on construction sites and ease of placing construction site waste material into one single bin.

“Our goal through the research was to look at the existing program and create a different approach to help, allowing for more source separation, increasing waste-diversion rates and reducing the construction companies’ impact on our environment,” said John Gerrard, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga.

Finding a Sustainable Solution

As a solution, Habitat for Humanity has proposed a pilot program to collect construction and demolition waste from partnered home builders and separate, recycle and repurpose the materials at an off-site location. The materials will then be used in a number of different ways. Some will be used for our own Habitat for Humanity construction projects, some will be sold at the Habitat for Humanity ReStores, which are home and building supply stores that accept and sell new and used building materials at reduced prices, and some will be repurposed at our ReVive Upcycling Centre, which takes materials that cannot be sold or reused in their current state and transforms them into items that can be sold at our ReStores. The ReStores and the Revive program keep six hundred metric tonnes of waste out of landfills each year and adding source separated materials to our inventory would increase this number exponentially.

This approach to source separation will reduce the amount of construction waste in landfill, reduce demand for production of more materials, help home builders align their operations with the provincial waste reduction strategy and support safe, decent and affordable home ownership to alleviate poverty within our community.​

“We are not simply changing the way we think about affordable housing in Halton and Mississauga, but now we know more about how we can help reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry in our region,” Gerrard said.

Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga is in the process of applying for funding for this pilot project to help bring us closer to a waste-free Ontario. To learn more about the ways Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga makes a difference in our community, you can find us on our website, here.

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Last modified: April 6, 2018

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