When speaking about site clearance and removing rubble from a construction site, most people think of simply loading up a truck and tossing the debris into a landfill or dumpsite. However, this exact practice leaves tonnes of hazardous materials improperly disposed of and threatens both human life and the environment.
In order to protect our environment and communities from these hazards there are measures that need to be put in place.
1. Separate the hazardous and inert materials
For the most part, much of the rubble resulting from a standard construction site is rather inert or harmless. Inert materials such as sand, stone and untreated wood can be safely dumped at a disposal site or even recycled or reused at another construction site. These can easily be loaded into a skip or truck and removed without much hassle.
It is important to make sure that this rubble is removed from the construction site, even if it is inert. These materials might not poison the environment and community, but a stray nail or splinter of wood could cause severe injury to people in the area or even to cars driving past (which could potentially lead to road accidents).
Why do we separate these materials?
These materials need to be properly separated so that they can be disposed of correctly, separately. Whereas inert rubble from a construction site can safely be dumped at a landfill, hazardous materials have a greater likelihood of contaminating the environment if also dumped there.
2. Properly separate and contain the hazardous materials
You may find it strange, needing to separate materials again, but this is best practice especially in terms of safety. The two main hazardous materials to watch out for – although there are many more – are asbestos and toxic metals.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre which became popular even in ancient times for its high heat –resistance. It was only much later that people started to realise that breathing in these fibres led to severe illnesses such as lung cancer and asbestosis.
Due to the fibrous nature of asbestos, if it is not separated and contained properly these fibres can become airborne and threaten the health and safety of the community. One way to manage this is by carefully stacking the asbestos on a thick plastic sheet and then double-wrapping and taping it before handing it over to a certified hazardous waste disposal company. Make sure to properly label the package as asbestos and hazardous.
Toxic metals (mercury and lead)
Proper site clearance must include careful screening for paints that contain lead and equipment such as thermostats which may contain mercury. These heavy metals are highly toxic and can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system, especially in children.
Anything containing these metals must be properly packaged inside a larger container, and then surrounded by an oil-absorbent material in order to protect against spills or breaks. Clearly label the vessel as containing these metals and hand it over to a certified hazardous waste disposal company.
Properly separating and disposing of rubble from a construction site clearly has major effects on the health of the environment and community. So make sure to contact the best team for site clearance in Gauteng to do your part!