CSC, missed opportunity for education on waste!

Recently the CSC – Castlemaine Secondary College – embarked on its exciting Stage Two reconstruction process. Sadly though, instead of making the most of a great learning and fundraising opportunity… the school ironically missed the opportunity to salvage tonnes of fantastic building materials to use for… all sorts of things I would imagine! Instead, truck loads ‘waste’ made their way to the tip face at Sunbury. Once again, the loop hole in the commercial waste ‘encouragement program’ sucked in a great resource… and right in our back yard!

We have a salvage yard because we love to see second hand materials re used again. That is how we began… and so we built our business around this loop hole. But, in all honesty… we would much rather live in a society where there are really few recycled materials available… because that would indicate that the loop has finally closed on the demolition, recycle and rebuild process. Alas, I fear that in Australia, we still have a long way to go.

The ideal scenario could go like this:

The commercial demolition process is tendered for and won, based on salvage credentials first which should therefore determine the overall cost (the standard rate of industrial waste across Australia is now sitting at approximately $70 p/tonne).

The client would then determine whether or not there was a need to reuse any of the materials in the design of the new structure, or if not… would specify to the demolisher that the materials will need to be stripped and sold, or saved for later sale post demolition.

According to plenty of available reading material, it is now cheaper to reuse or recycle (even with our high award wages).

At this stage… I imagine, it could be rather handy if there was a salvage yard within cooee who would (a) strip materials (b) store them for the (in this case) school to perhaps be auctioned off at a later date as a ‘fundraiser’ (I’m sure schools have these from time to time?) or (c) straight out purchase them and cover cost of stripping and cartage.

In my experience… the time lost in waiting an extra 2 days prior to demolition surely must make up for the costs involved in trucking to the tip face in Sunbury and paying to bury them in the ground, or to separate the steel from the waste.

With most tangible recycled products these days… it eventually becomes tricky to find all of your stock locally.

So, when the opportunity truly presents itself on a large, local and really beneficial scale, it is truly fabulous.

One such opportunity over the past few years, has been the redevelopment of the Castlemaine secondary college.

I wrote about the ecological fallout behind the education stimulus package ‘here’ a while back… The level of ‘care less’ surrounding government funded development jobs…. Everybody is getting paid well, so the care factor to take further ‘care’ to ensure that the demolition materials are being put back into the community… is super low, or actually… non existent! The job has been quoted at a ridiculously high price, this quote would include exorbitant tipping fees for the waste… but, when the government is picking up the tab, the chips are often fairly high (often we find that more care is taken with domestic housing projects… not always, but sometimes!).

We generally skulk around demolition jobs, feeling like sheepish criminals… taking down any phone numbers on boards out the front, trying to get the ear of a hopefully slightly sympathetic demolisher, or at least one keen to earn a ‘bit of cash on the side’ to just stall for a couple of days while we can either get access to strip out, or who will slow his boys down a WEE bit to take a little bit of care with the salvageable items.

And this is exactly what we did a few weeks ago. Mat took a trip up to the school, spoke to the contractor who was mildly interested enough to say that he’d give us a call and let us know when we could get access. It seemed tepid… but he’d given us a date for a couple of weeks down the track… so it seemed promising enough.

Ironically enough, I attended the school’s open day last week… and as I was sitting and listening to the address given by the acting school vice principal about how excited they were for the new stage 2 build to take place, she mentioned ‘the demolition process is already well under way’… I had to stop myself from running out of the new shiny hall and down the back to throw myself in front of the 30 tonne excavator.

A quick visit to the contractor on site yielded the usual spiel, ‘In a hurry, gotta get the foundations in in the next few days, couldn’t wait’… Ironically enough, the following week and another quick trip up to the site and I discovered a very clean, very quiet site… guess the hurry was not such a hurry after all! (at the time of publishing this, the site is still extremely quiet, certainly no foundation work is visible… demolition finished well over 3 weeks ago now).

It got me wondering (more) about commercial demolition process in Australia.

This simplistic document is available on the master builders of victoria website for anybody interested… purely a gentle nudge, presented for… well, kindergarten children it appears. It is in bold primary colours with BIG, EASY TO READ checklists, and has gentle suggestions like ‘separate waste where possible’… flintstone-esque cartoons like the one of the cheery builder on the phone ordering bricks.

I have pawed my way through a POWER of Master builders paperwork over the years for various rigid building requirements… have encountered only punitive language surrounding OH&S and legal requirements, and mind boggling amounts of paperwork prepared by their legal team that have outlined the copious laws that must not be breached, in our day as registered builders, for this and that… and NOT ONCE… NOT THE ONCE… did I ever see an easy to read checklist with a cheery Barney Rubble staring out at me!!!

There is something very wrong about this picture! (and if it’s not obvious to you dear reader, then my point is ‘resource recovery is so very token in our country that we are choking on the stuff!’).

What the cheery document does point out very pleasantly though, is this:

“Construction and demolition waste contributes between 40 and 50 % of all solid waste that goes to landfill. On average 2.6 tonnes of waste materials are produced during the construction of [every single] house in Melbourne (excluding soil and screenings)”

So, we know that the construction industry is the major contributor to landfill in our country… construction and demolition in equal parts.

So, back to the issue with the stage 2 Castlemaine secondary school demolition process. Apart from the fact that we made the demolishers’ job easy, by presenting ourselves, our interest in purchasing the materials (we often pay cash to contractors, pocketing them beer money AND saving them thousands in tipping fees), that we have the insurances, skills and equipment to efficiently strip out the materials… they still chose to ignore us. Not one representative at the college made the link through to the contractor, or thought to see the salvage and potential future use of materials for a school based rebuild project involving students as a beneficial learning experience for students and therefore worth a short conversation with the commercial builders to ensure the access to these materials.

So the issue of ‘what materials exactly could be worth saving from a 1970’s country high school’ probably needs addressing.

These buildings were built very agriculturally… pre fabricated in a sturdier era… easy to unbolt steel webbed trusses (in their hundreds), acres of old school thick galvanised corrugated iron, well seasoned hardwood floors, plus hundreds of metres of steel I beam bearers and hardwood joists… right down to power points that can be snipped off in 20 seconds but cost $12 to buy new. So these simple materials are relatively straight forward to strip out of a building like a country high school of that era… but these materials alone could form the base structure of en entirely new contemporary build… for the school… for any number of the staff, many of whom are owner builders themselves. The materials stacked up in a small corner of the oval and sold at a fundraising auction for even a fraction of the market price… could have funded PLENTY of future projects for a school who consistently relies on it’s parent body to fundraise!

And in an ironic twist… this week I heard a whisper that the school is now seeking second hand building materials to be donated for the construction of their proposed greenhouse project!!!

In fact… I do believe that during the construction of the Daylesford secondary college… stock piling and auctioning off is exactly what they did!!


There have been too many missed opportunities for salvaging commercial demolition waste in our shire over the 16 years that we have lived here, but most recently and worth mentioning, was the extensive Hunt and Lobb buildings on Forest street… disappeared almost overnight, and many more in the near future that are worth lobbying for… La Trobe in Bendigo is one I hear that’s imminent!

It would be great to begin a conversation… at least in our immediate community… about how we could interact in a positive manner with developers and demolishers, to re use demolition ‘waste’ that isn’t a hindrance to the job at hand. And see these materials returned to the community in any way, shape or form. If you have actually made it to the end of this article without falling asleep, and are keen to chat, drop us a line here at the Salvage Yard and lets talk!