Embracing the value of excess building materials fosters economic, ecological, and social benefits. There are cost-saving opportunities for individuals and businesses engaged in construction projects. Moreover, these materials contribute to sustainable practices by minimising waste and reducing environmental impact. Reusing surplus materials promotes resource conservation and decreases the demand for new production, thereby conserving energy and lowering carbon emissions.
Very recently, we've built in a calculated feature to the platform that allows the users to track the weight of materials that they've sent on to a user and also track the embodied carbon value of those materials. So people are able to demonstrate very specifically and very sort of openly what they are doing with those materials. And it's actually helping them win tenders for more work because they can they can say, look, Mr. and Mrs. Client, this is what we do with our reusable waste. We don't throw it in a skid. We don't bury it in the ground in the back garden of the new build, and it goes to a new home and it gets reused somewhere else.
Hello, and welcome to Rethink What Matters. The podcast dedicated to aligning the economy with the ecology and everyone for improved business performance, stronger families, and a greener, cooler, planet.
And today, I'm joined by Nigel Eastham of Sustainability Yard. And we're going to be discussing excess building materials.
So Sustainability Yard wants to start a no waste revolution within the building and DIY industry. So every year, four hundred and twenty million tons of building materials are bought with a hundred and twenty one million tons, so, like, nearly twenty five percent of that going into landfill. So welcome, Nigel. Thanks very much for joining us on this podcast.
Thanks for having me. Nice to be here.
Brilliant. Brilliant. So could you tell us a little bit about your journey then, Nigel, please, to creating what led you to create Sustainability Yard. And if you can tell us a bit more about Sustainability Yard too, you know, what you're doing there.
So I come from a property development background and sort of refurbs, starting off in refurbs, renovations, small flips and whatnot.
And as the property development business has grown and developed and sort of evolved I realised that there was a real issue. Even at my level, a great sort of granular level of the property industry that there's buckets full and tons and tons of reusable materials that are finding their way to the wrong place, and that is the, you know, there'll be an odds and ends skip. So the theory was if I'm doing it at a very small level, what are the big boys doing and ultimately they're doing the same thing and that really comes down to an ease and convenience thing. And you've just said the figures that surround the industry of waste and reusable waste. Quite astonishing, you know, we're talking twenty five percent of what's used each year is reusable. And unfortunately, it isn't reused.
Right. Okay. So tell us then a little bit about Sustainability Yard and how it functions, how it operates.
Yeah. So Sustainability Yard is a platform for anybody who has reasonable building materials, whether you're a DIY or a tradesman, right up into the National House Builders and main contractor world. Where they can buy sell or even give away these building materials.
It is a double-edged sword. I suppose for the bigger guys using it, they're really only going to be using it to get rid of those materials because they generate such vast quantities of reusable waste. And on the flip side of that, you've got your DIYs and tradesmen who wanted to pick those materials up for a fraction of the price so they can get them in the builder's merchants or even for free because they're doing, wanting to do jobs around the house or doing local jobs in the local town.
Okay. Brilliant. And how many-- can you tell us how many users you have? How long did you say it's been going?
So it's been going around a couple of years now. And in that time, we've had some really good traction. Like I said, we've picked up some really big names in the industry who wanted to use it and run with it. Because obviously, it helps them demonstrate their sustainability activity, helps them hit the local economy benefits and the social values targets. So on the flip side of that, in terms of people, DIYs and tradesmen, we're approaching twenty thousand users now across the UK.
You know, that’s from Stornoway, the north of Scotland right down to Cornwall, and that number grows daily.
Right. Brilliant. I read online clearly that there was a landlord who revamped his rental property without paying a penny for materials using Sustainability Yard.
That's right. Yeah. We were published in the Telegraph not so long ago.
And really, it's a problem that is across the board. You know, people are wanting to refurb, renovate properties, whether you're a landlord or just, you know, doing your own home up. Yeah. It doesn't come cheap.
So if we can facilitate people finding materials at a at a cheaper price, then that, you know, we're doing a good thing.
Especially by the environment. You know? Something that gets reused then isn't getting dug out of the ground. That's brilliant. Nice.
And we're actually partnered with the big waste management firm, and they're called Reconomy. They're constantly asking their customer base to not put reusable materials in the skip.
You know, they're constantly asking them to do something else with it and I think what we do in Sustainability Yard facilitates that. And so, you know, we're doing a good thing for every demographic of user.
Yeah. Absolutely. And it can help landlords reach their EPC targets, their Energy Performance Certificate targets.
That's right. The materials that are being posted on there, so that they range from insulation, roofing tiles, structural timber, you know, sanitary ware, anything that you might find at the end of-- that's left over from the end of a job is being posted on there. So no matter what you're looking for, you’d probably be able to find it on that.
Brilliant. So is it a bit like eBay? Is it an auction site? Or is it more of an auto trader.
You've hit the nail on the head. It's a classified ads platform. We've not reinvented the wheel. It's something that's been done before by the likes of eBay and Facebook marketplace. But what we are is a more (of a) repairs spill-over community. Everybody in there is looking to buy and sell building materials. Everybody there knows what they're getting, and they know what they're looking for. Generally speaking.
It's been fantastic, and it's very circular economy, isn't it?
That's exactly what it is. It's remote in the circular economy of these building materials because otherwise, you know, they don't find a way to the right place.
Have you seen any knock on effects of this where people are starting to reconsider the materials that they use or you know, because you're highlighting the amount of waste, have you seen--? It's probably too early for this, but have you seen maybe they're considering how they buy in the first place, how something gets designed, how perhaps how they could use it for longer, how maybe they could also repurpose themselves in some other way before throwing it away?
Yeah. It's a good question. Unfortunately, the nature of the construction industry means that there is always going to be an element of surplus whether it be a change of spec on site or even if you're a homeowner, you're putting a small extension on, specs change, materials come incorrectly. You might-- people may over order accidentally.
People may under order, which will prompt you to need just a little bit of materials and you don't they want to go back to the builder's merchants for those. So there's all sorts of reasons why these materials would need to be put on there or would or people would have a need to look for them on there.
Right. Okay. It is helping with your customers It is helping with your customer's footprint as well, isn't it? So it's helping to reduce their carbon emissions. We need to identify what's happening to them anyway.
Exactly. I mean, very recently, we've built in a calculating feature to the platform that allows the users to track the weight of materials that they've sent on to another a user and also track the embodied carbon value of those materials.
So people are able to demonstrate very specifically and very so openly what they are doing with those materials. And it's actually helping them win tenders for more work because they can say, look, Mr. and Mrs. Client, this is what we do with our reusable waste. We don't throw it in a skip. We don't bury it in the ground in the back garden of the new build. We put it on Sustainability Yard platform, and it goes to a new home and it gets reused somewhere else. And that's something that people are very heavily targeted on, you know, the government are squeezing these big firms quite a lot on what's expected from them. And what they expect to be done with these materials. So we're a really good tool for people to use to get rid of those materials correctly.
And, you know, transparency is the name of the game, isn't it? So the more transparent you can be, the better it is. And then you can also identify your carbon emissions. You can also put in place a reduction - carbon reduction plan.
That's right. And also, you know, companies can say, so we've used Sustainability Yard for twelve months, and this is what we've done, and this is the amount of materials, this is the weight of materials that we've stopped from going in the skip. So that's great. So next year, you have a conversation internally. You say, right. Well, just for argument's sake, it was a hundred tons. This year, we want to see it at fifty tons. So it's a tool actually to help them streamline their own businesses not just to get rid of these materials, but actually to help their business process.
You're hoping your business sort of dwindles away and disappears, aren't you?
(Laughs) Exactly. I mean, ultimately. Cool. It's been a rock in a hard place, though. Yeah. It could be a short-lived thing.
So I noticed you're invited to the House of Lords, and you met with Baroness Natalie Bennett, who was the former leader of the Green Party.
I did. Yeah.
Maybe I need to ask you a little bit about that.
Yeah. Sure. So I suppose just through social media, through the activity that we're generating in the industry, we're making a few people sort of sit up and listen, and one of those people was Natalie Bennett, and she very kindly invited us down to the House of Lords for us to have a chat about our initiative what we're doing and how we can sort of scale it and the speed at which we can scale it because she was there previously, like you said, the leader of the Green Party.
And she really likes what we're doing. And so as put something in place to-- she's actually gone to government and gone to parliament and ask what measures are in place to deal with these surplus waste on building sites across the UK. So hopefully, we might be able to be roll you know, we might be rolled out across government as well, which we found seemly.
Brilliant. What a you know, you've got a business with a real purpose there, haven't you?
Yeah. I think it sort of confirms that what we're doing has real value and, you know, there's a real need for it.
Brilliant. Absolutely. It's such a fantastic business. It really is.
So what other use cases are there? Can you give us any stories and examples, perhaps of any particular odd things that have been thrown away or you know, as a consequence of your service, people are now not throwing away something or they're throwing away more of something else?
I mean, you've already mentioned the Telegraph where the chap was, you know, using Sustainability Yard for all of the materials for his refurb on his rental. I think that's a really, really good example of what people are doing with the platform and how they're utilising it. To give you sort of an idea of scale - some of the materials we're seeing put on there. I mean, we had two thousand internal doors put on there at one point.
Two thousand what? Sorry.
Two thousand doors. Two thousand internal doors that would be used on a new build site. Just because they weren’t in the right size for the houses, for the door openings that have been made. So, you know, rather than send them back, they were put on the Sustainability Yard platform.
We've had seventy-five rolls of rock wool insulation put on there in the past. We've had three thousand metres of rigid insulation put on there that would normally be used underground under your concrete slab.
Structural timber. We've had over five hundred metres of skirting board put on there at one point or another.
So the quantity of materials is great. And also the quality because you got to remember a lot of this stuff is coming from (a) new build site. It's coming from main contractors. So there is a certain spec that's required and a certain one standard quality that's required by those guys using the platform, it means the quality of materials that people are able to pick up is really, really high.
Really. That's so great.
Yeah. Couldn't be happier with that. The traction that we've seen at the highest level is superb.
So can you just explain a little bit more for me if you don't mind, Nigel, the business model?
It's a good question. I mean, it's not been cheap to get to this point, to be honest with you. Obviously, I don't come from a technology background. So building a platform and growing it with all the marketing that comes with it and everything. I've been surprised at the cost. That's the truth of it.
It is an expensive business to set up and run. So we've introduced a payment for the bigger users, if you will. So Tier One, Tier Two contactors, your house builders, and they will pay for the privilege to use the platform. Now they're not going to buy, so they're just going to give it away.
So we'll charge those users to be on the platform to have the facility to use the platform. And, obviously, they get a report that comes with that as well. They get the calculation system, and that's ultimately what they're going to pay for is the is the ability to say, look, this is what this is the amount of waste that we have that we've sent and repurposed.
On the flip side of that, and the majority of our users, probably ninety five, ninety six percent of our users will fall into the tradesman and DIY as landlords category. Now they will buy and sell because they're using on a much more micro level. Now there's no charge for those guys to use the platform.
Because really what we want to do is generate as much activity possible. We want as many of those people on there to buy the materials from the bigger guys using it. So in short, the bigger companies will pay for using the platform and the DIYs and tradesmen and landlords will use it for free.
Great. Well, it's a great business model, it really is. So, yeah, that's fantastic. And I know you've got such a variety of materials on there as you explained a little bit earlier. Is there much legislation or policy or regulation around what you have to do here?
No. The buying and selling of the materials is completely at the discretion of the user. And all we are is, if you like, a go-between the two or conjugate between the two. There aren't many electrical items being listed on there, not many white goods or anything like that. What we're tending to see is what I would call more first fix materials. So bricks, blocks, timber, plasterboard insulation, roofing materials, that sort of thing, which doesn't necessarily need a warranty or anything with it. Now as we grow, and perhaps we might navigate our way into more of the electrical items, and that's fine.
And we'll just have to introduce more sort of red tape and sort of more stringent checks as we go, as more of those things are introduced.
Yeah. It's good to be focused, isn't it? To be known for one thing and do that really well.
Yeah. What I found is the deeper we go into this and the busier we get, you find yourself being pulled in all sorts of different directions. And more and more people come to me and say, “Have you thought about this? Why, you know, can you do this for us? Will you take these sorts of materials?”
You've got to be quite strict because otherwise, you spread yourself too thinly. And ultimately, your product becomes diluted. And I really don't want that to happen.
I want it to be a quality product, a quality platform with quality materials on there. And if that means we have to offer a few materials less in order to offer that quality product, then that's fine for the time being.
Yeah. I think you know, in business, it's not so much about finding ideas and saying yes to things, it's saying no to things.
I think that's really important. I've got a really good team of people behind me. I've got three shareholders that are part of the business with me who have many more years (of) experience in business and in property than I do, actually. And so they sort of hold my hand through a few bits of this. But it's really useful to have those guys helping me out in the background.
Yeah. Absolutely. Definitely. It's cool about, you know, just about creating a team, isn't it?
Hundred percent. Hundred percent couldn't do it without them.
Yeah. So for the big guys on those developers, they throw everything into the skips. So they're still throwing them into the same skips, but you take-- so did they have to change slightly what they do in order for you to be able to access it, or do you go to their skips and take it and add it up?
It's a cool question. Basically, what we're doing on any site there will be a materials compound, and that will traditionally be found near the near the entrance or exit.
What we're asking people to do is to split those materials up into what's surplus and what's still needed. Because if you can take a picture of those materials, upload it onto the Sustainability Yard app and get rid of it before it goes in a skip, then that's what we're trying to do. Trying to stop these materials going into a skip being taken out to the waste management firms and ultimately, you know, they do their thing with it, but we want to catch it before it reaches that stage.
They'll take a picture of the materials that they have, item, you know, break them up into bricks, timber, roofing materials, whatever it might be. And then they can upload that picture onto the platform. Now we've made it as simple as possible. They can do that in less than sixty seconds.
They can upload an advert in less than sixty seconds. So there's not a long sort of chain of paperwork or admin to do. It's really easy. And once that post has been uploaded onto the app, somebody in your local area will contact you. We'll open up a live chat with that person. And then they can arrange a time to come and collect it and maybe arrange a, you know, agree (on) a price.
I think the beauty of what we've got is it's really quite simple. And, you know, as long as that message is conveyed to the to the listener that look, you know, it's great. So even like my dad, for example, he wants to build a small brick barbecue in the garden. Right? There’s this old platform that he could go and find those bricks without having to go to the builders merchants and buy brand new bricks. So I suppose the message is really simple. Whether you're a DIY and you've done some jobs around the house and you've got some bits left over, put the word on Sustainability Yard platform.
If you're looking to start a DIY job around the house, check out the Sustainability Yard platform to try and pick all these materials for a fraction of the price. If you're a tradesman and you're doing jobs for local people and you need bits to finish off a job, check it out. I mean, you know, we've got Catnics and lintels on there, which are ideal for extensions and stuff like that, you know, bits that you will always need on an extension are always going on there.
So it's a really useful tool for anybody looking to buy or sell building materials, whether you're a DIY or a right up to a national house builder.
That's brilliant. And I can see how a lot of people will get a lot of value out of using Sustainability Yard.
Yeah. We've kept it really simple. You can find us on the App Store by searching for Sustainability Yard really simply. And similarly, for Google Play. You search for Sustainability Yard, and you can find us on our website at www.sustainabilityyard.com.
Do you know, one final thing I will say is, I was also astonished at the uptake and the traction we had from the DIY world. It was originally set up to take a pain away from the sort of the bigger companies. But to see the traction it's had at the at the DIY level, has really astonished me because we were featured in a local newspaper, you know, a regional newspaper. And within four days, we had over three thousand downloads of the platform.
Wow. Isn't that brilliant? Yeah.
I couldn't believe it. I was really, really shocked that-- but, obviously, you know, the appetite. The appetite is there because the DIY market is a big, big market. It's people are always doing stuff around the house. And people have always got those materials sat at the back of the garage, sat down inside the house, at the end of the garden.
So this is a perfect platform for them to get rid of those materials.
Nice. Thanks very much for your time on this podcast.
No worries. Thanks for having me. Thanks very much, Paul.