BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 07 April '17

A new online marketplace connects builders, DIYers and charities with materials destined for landfill

This article appears in the spring issue of MyGreenPod.com Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 07 April 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online.

Reiss Salustro-Pilson and Nigel Van Wassenhoven (pictured) have both worked in the construction industry and witnessed first-hand how much reusable material ends up in a skip and, ultimately, landfill.

Frustrated by the wasteful nature of the sector, they launched a peer-to-peer marketplace that keeps surplus and reusable materials from the construction and DIY industries out of the waste stream.

‘Globally, the construction industry demands over half of all humanity’s resources and creates a third of global waste’, Reiss tells us. ‘The UK construction sector alone generates 120 million tonnes of waste per year – over half of which is reusable.’

It’s estimated that 13% of that material – worth over £1.5bn – ends up as ‘waste’ without ever having been used. With forecasts suggesting the global construction market will grow by 70% by 2025, the problem’s only set to get worse.

FROM PAINT TO ROOF TILES

As an alternative to the linear economy of ‘take, make and dispose’, the Enviromate marketplace makes it easy to recirculate, redistribute and reuse materials that would otherwise end up in the skip. It’s open to anyone – from tradesmen to DIY enthusiasts – and allows users to buy or sell anything from a few tins of paint to pallets of bricks, timber and roof tiles.

‘We are harnessing and embracing the rise of both digital technology and sharing economy principles to help propel the growth of the circular economy’, Reiss explains. ‘Reusable materials are kept out of the waste stream and value is not destroyed; instead, it’s preserved and also created, through the sharing and trading of under-utilised resources.’

SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES

Enviromate also connects larger developers to community projects and charities that could benefit from their surplus materials. ‘Enviromate Donate is a separate area that lets communities and charities list projects with material requirements, so a developer or wholesaler with a larger surplus can match their unwanted materials to a suitable project’, Reiss explains.

Enviromate has helped nonprofit Rebuilt4U to regenerate derelict housing stock and provide affordable housing in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. Another charity has used surplus paint sourced through Enviromate to bolster its multi-sensory services for children and young people with additional needs, and a community growing project has used the marketplace to source top soil from a local construction project.

THE IMPACT SO FAR

The overall goal is to increase a product’s lifecycle, reduce waste to landfill and decrease the burden on the planet’s natural resources – and it seems to be working.To date over 7,000 tonnes of material have been listed for reuse on the Enviromate marketplace, and the volume of surplus diverted from the waste stream is enough to fill more than four olympic swimming pools, with a gross merchandise volume close to £1m.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the platform, which has attracted 20,000 members, has been extremely well received within the industry and beyond; Enviromate was recognised as Pioneer of the Year at 2016’s P.E.A. Awards and shortlisted at 2015’s Observer Ethical Awards.

DISRUPTING AN INDUSTRY

Reiss and Nigel have been dubbed ‘industry disruptors’ for revolutionising the construction sector – and it’s an approach Reiss feels should be replicated across all industries. ‘Today’s world is in urgent need of disruptive and regenerative solutions to new and existing challenges’, he tells us, ‘be it environmental sustainability, natural resource depletion, poverty alleviation, wealth disparity, access to clean water, public health or the protection of endangered species. Disruption along with existing corporate reinvention is simply our natural human progression: transforming and moving towards a collaborative world driven to redefine current norms and accelerate business under an oath of planet, people, prosperity.’

According to Reiss, we must use and embrace technology to harness resources in an ethical and sustainable way – and inspire others to do the same. ‘It will be through education that we can seize the opportunity, along with impactful investing in the future agents of change and pioneers that this world so desperately requires’, he tells us. ‘Change comes from within and only once we realise this will the world be a prosperous place for all.’

Click here for more about Enviromate and to access its marketplace.