How to reduce your building waste the easy green way

how to recycle building materials

Recycling is an easy green activity that I do everyday, recycling my milk bottles, recycling my children’s outgrown clothes and recycling my food waste into compost. However, when you are undertaking a house build, extension or refurbishment, as I am at the moment, the task of recycling takes on a whole new and much larger dimension.

As, in a previous life, I’ve had the need to regularly visit building sites, I am fully aware of the sheer quantity of reusable and sometimes new material that gets dumped straight into landfill during the build process. Waste through removal/demolition, waste from suppliers packaging and waste from material over-ordering all contribute to the overall carbon footprint of the build. That’s why, as part of my own house refurbishment/extension project, I have made a pledge to keep the waste to a minimum, not only for the good of the environment, but for my pocket too.

Here are my easy green tips to help you reduce your house improvement building waste and save you time and money:

Ordering building materials

Ordering only the material that is needed. An obvious step, but one that to get right needs careful planning and correct calculations. Working closely with your builder can help you avoid this pitfall, firstly agree on the materials you require, e.g house bricks, tiles and finishes and get samples to confirm choices before ordering. Also be aware of what quantities materials can be purchased in and, if possible, ask your builder to seek out suppliers who offer a ‘buy-back’ policy*. That way any unused and undamaged stock can be returned and you’ll be reimbursed. *Be aware of potential re-stocking charges, some suppliers charge a percentage to re-stock their product.

FSC joistsReuse surplus

Another easy way to reduce your waste is to ask your builder to consider where they can reuse surplus materials. For example, when we fitted our new floor joists, we used the off-cuts as ‘noggings’ in walls, floors and ceilings (noggings are pieces of wood used to tighten a framework). Bricks or blocks can also be used as hardcore when constructing paths and driveways.

Upcycle building materials

But what if the materials have been damaged or are surplus? As an avid upcycler, I can confirm there are lots of online tutorials which show how to upcycle your waste materials into new, stunning creations. From chic coffee tables made out of old pallets to upcycled window frames into a stunning picture frames, there are lots of fantastic ideas out there to get your creative juices flowing.

The latest upcycling project which I’ll be undertaking very soon will use all of the old and damaged bricks from my build to create a new garden wall using gabions and some Scottish pebbles. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.


Of course, it would be naïve of me to suggest that there won’t be a quantity of waste from your building site which you are unable to use, but that doesn’t mean it is unusable elsewhere. To dispose of your building waste in an environmentally-friendly way and to continue it’s lifecycle, recycle!

Hippowaste offer an easy and convenient way to remove and recycle your rubbish using their Hippobags. A more cost effective alternative to endless trips to your local recycling centre or hiring of a traditional skip, with the Hippobag, you simply pick one up in your local DIY store or order on line, fill, then call for collection. The waste is collected at your convenience and then recycled, Hippobag recycle on average 90% of all waste collected.

To find out how good their bags are, Hippowaste kindly offered me one of their Hipposkip bags to try out and I can report I am really impressed.

Hippowaste bag

The HippoSkip is their largest bag (there are 3 sizes to choose from) at 4.5 cubic yards and has a weight limit of 1.5. tonnes, so it can take enough waste to rival that of it’s rather more bulky and less flexible alternative, the skip.

Another advantage of the Hipposkip is that it saves you time, no more time-consuming trips to the recycling centre or waiting for a skip to be delivered. Mine was ordered online and arrived flat-packed through the post within 3 days of ordering.

Using the easy to follow instructions I simply unpacked, unfolded and positioned the bag 4m from the kerbside then began filling. It’s a simple as that!

It’s not just Hippobag’s recycling rates which makes them an easy green choice when disposing of large quantities of waste, Hippowaste also run a fleet of locally based, fuel-efficient vehicles for their collections.

Furthermore, Hippowaste run a scheme ‘Grants up for grabs’ through which they help local community groups and charitable organizations by providing a free waste collection service. If your local charity or community group needs support with waste removal, find out if they’re eligible here

Hippobags are available online from major DIY stores including and B&Q

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