WASTE NOT, want not

We all need to do more to help reduce waste and protect the environment. Installers can demonstrate their green credentials by ensuring they treat waste products in a responsible manner

‘Going green’ is part of everyday life. Whether it’s recycling, reducing the amount of water used in the home or buying eco-conscious products, everyone plays their part in helping bring down their individual carbon footprints.

As sustainability moves up the agenda for individuals, customers are also looking to businesses to lead the way. As a result, supermarkets are turning to biodegradable alternatives in packaging, car manufacturers are creating more efficient vehicles and workplaces are initiating cycle-to-work-style programmes.

In the same way, integral services such as plumbing are also being placed in the environmental spotlight. For plumbers, there has never been a better time to highlight your green conscience and plug into the growing trend of eco-conscious homeowners.

One of the best ways to start thinking green is by considering how much product waste you generate for each of your jobs, and how much of this waste can be minimised or reused for future jobs.

Standard and good practise waste guide

WRAP, the non-profit organisation that promotes recycling and sustainability, has a great wastage rate based on the premise of ‘standard’ and ‘good’ practice, which can be used as a guide when ordering parts for a job.

Standard practice assumes that no specific actions are taken to reduce waste. Good practice, on the other hand, assumes that some effort has been taken to reduce wastage – such as utilising resources more effectively by using offcuts for other jobs. When it comes to copper pipework, for example, the standard waste practice is around 6 per cent of any job. However, good practice would be only 2 per cent wastage on the same job.

Other materials to be taken into consideration using this approach are water insulations; standard practice would see 5 per cent of waste, while that figure is only 2 per cent for good practice. In some cases, this should be even less, especially with bespoke or bulkier items such as radiators, which cannot be reused in the same way as more flexible-use items. In this case, 5 per cent of wastage would normally be created, whereas only 1 per cent need be wasted with good practice.

So how can you start to reduce waste? There are lots of things that you can start to do to help the environment – and your profits.

Think before you buy

One of the first things is to think carefully before you buy. It may be the case that you are over-ordering, which is a major form of waste and creates a huge carbon footprint. Throughout the supply chain, lorries, planes and ferries transport goods around the globe before arriving at your local supplier. By reducing the amount you order, you could help cut carbon emissions.

There is a good method that you can use when writing down what you need for your next job: reduce the amount you are ordering, re-use wherever possible, and recycle what you have left over (if you can). Lastly, and only as a last resort, dispose of products that need to be thrown away, such as broken or damaged goods.

The value of waste thrown away at the end of a job can typically average £1,300 per skip! According to WRAP, 65 per cent of this is wasted materials, with the other 35 per cent split between VAT (20per cent), labour (three per cent) and skip hire itself (12 per cent).

‘Perishable products such as sealant can often be over-ordered and will simply be thrown away’

Ideas for recycling and reusing

Limit what goes in the skip with these eco-friendly ideas


  • Arrange storage space so you can store reusable products
  • Donate unused items to local charities


  • Just like you would in your own home, keep unused waste separate and organise into copper, plastics, glass and metal
  • Where possible, use a waste contractor to dispose of your waste


The average value of waste contained in a skip at the end of a job

Use the right products for the job

Making sure you have the right product for the job is one of the biggest timesavers there is, and helps you get the job done quickly and efficiently. Wolseley has an extended and exclusive product range that is widely available throughout its branch network.

The offcuts from pipes and fittings can often be reused on other jobs. In some cases these can be returned to the supplier, such as Wolseley, who will exchange or refund them for you

What else can be done?

Forward planning is critical in minimising waste and reducing environmental impact per job. In practice, this could mean precisely planning what materials are needed for a job, only sourcing new parts when needed. Of course, there will be times when you will need extra supplies. Making a detailed list first will enable you to evaluate precisely what you need before visiting your local supplier.

Making sure that you have the correct sizes for products is another simple way to reduce waste. Perishable products such as sealant can often be over-ordered and will simply be thrown away. However, Wolseley and some other suppliers will offer you the chance to sell back items that you have not used.

However you think about it, sustainability and the act of doing your ‘green’ bit for the environment is part of modern day business. But with many options available to support recycling and reusing, tackling this issue of sustainability isn’t something that has to be done alone. It can also increase your profit margins and attract more customers to your business.