Assessing the environmental performance of construction materials testing using EMS: An Australian study Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper reports the audit findings of the waste management practices at 30 construction materials testing (CMT) laboratories (constituting 4.6% of total accredited CMT laboratories at the time of the audit) that operate in four Australian jurisdictions and assesses the organisation's Environmental Management System (EMS) for indicators of progress towards sustainable development (SD). In Australia, waste indicators are 'priority indicators' of environmental performance yet the quality and availability of waste data is poor. National construction and demolition waste (CDW) data estimates are not fully disaggregated and the contribution of CMT waste (classified as CDW) to the national total CDW landfill burden is difficult to quantify. The environmental and human impacts of anthropogenic release of hazardous substances contained in CMT waste into the ecosphere can be measured by construing waste indicators from the EMS. An analytical framework for evaluating the EMS is developed to elucidate CMT waste indicators and assess these indicators against the principle of proportionality. Assessing against this principle allows for: objective evaluations of whether the environmental measures prescribed in the EMS are 'proportionate' to the 'desired' (subjective) level of protection chosen by decision-makers; and benchmarking CMT waste indicators against aspirational CDW targets set by each Australian jurisdiction included in the audit. Construed together, the EMS derived waste indicators and benchmark data provide a composite indicator of environmental performance and progress towards SD. The key audit findings indicate: CMT laboratories have a 'poor' environmental performance (and overall progress towards SD) when EMS waste data are converted into indicator scores and assessed against the principle of proportionality; CMT waste recycling targets are lower when benchmarked against jurisdictional CDW waste recovery targets; and no significant difference in the average quantity of waste diversion away from landfill was observed for laboratories with ISO14001 EMS certification compared to non-ISO14001 certified laboratories.

publication date

  • 2016