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How does the construction industry affect the environment?

Waste Disposal

What is it?

This category represents the environmental issues associated with the loss of resource implied by the final disposal of waste. Any waste that is disposed of in landfill or incinerated without energy recovery will be included. Key points for this impact category are:

• reflects the loss of resource resulting from waste disposal (in contrast to recycling or reuse);
• does not include any other impacts associated with landfill or incineration – emissions from decomposition, burning and associated transport and other machinery are included in the relevant categories;
• the mass of waste is used as a proxy for the loss of resource;
• includes waste sent to incineration and landfill or any other form of final disposal (e.g. dumping on
land or in the sea);
• does not differentiate between hazardous, non-hazardous, inert or organic wastes;
• different impacts from hazardous, non-hazardous, etc will be: included within the waste
treatment models (landfill, incineration and composting) for these wastes;
• where heat recovery, energy recovery or other material recovery (e.g. recovery/recycling of ash,
metal residues etc) are undertaken as part of incineration or landfill, then this value is used to
calculate the loss of resource.

What causes it? (cause)

The disposal of materials to landfill or incineration.

What does it do? (effect)

Limits land use opportunities; generates noise, dust and odour; causes emissions of gases (e.g.methane) and leachate, poses risk of underground fires etc.

CLIMATE CHANGE CC100 (Carbon dioxide equivalent)

What is it?

The earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of the heat (infrared radiation) emitted from the sun, which causes the earth to heat up. This effect occurs naturally but has increased over the past few centuries; the average temperature of the earth’s surface has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 °C since the late 19th century. This is why the issue is called ‘Global Warming’. The increased warming was attributed to the effects of a group of gases (‘greenhouse gases’) that sit in the earth’s atmosphere and prevent the earth losing heat gained from the sun (‘radiative forcing’). It has since been realised that increases in temperature can result in other weather extremes, e.g. droughts and floods, so the issue has become ‘Climate Change’.

Each greenhouse gas lasts for a different amount of time in the atmosphere. This is why Climate Change effects are calculated over a specific timescale. Three timescales are generally used: 20 years (for rapidly occurring effects), 100 years (enough time to address most atmospheric effects) or 500 years (enough time to cover effects on the oceans). 100 years is the most frequently used time period, for example to calculate Climate Change in Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

The Climate Change timescale is different from the lifetime of the product or function being studied. Initial emphasis has been placed on the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) due to human activity, mainly through the burning of fuels containing carbon. The UK Government is committed to a legally binding, international target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. It also committed the country to the goal of cutting domestic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 20`% below the 1990 level by 2010. To achieve this, the government has established a Climate Change Programme containing measures to ensure that the UK moves towards a more sustainable, lower carbon economy. One of these measures is the setting up of the Climate Change Levy, which is expected to bring significant Carbon savings

What causes it? (cause)

Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), halocarbons
(including CFCs and perfluorocarbons, e.g. CF4, and hydrohalocarbons, e.g. HFCs and HCFCs).

Water vapour and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have an indirect effect because they increase the effects of
some of the above gases.

The combustion of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) is the biggest source of greenhouse gases.

What does it do? (effect) Raised global temperatures leading to desertification; rising sea levels;
climatic disturbance, and spread in disease.

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