How you can avoid negative comments from late adopters when using new systems and technologies that reduce your construction project’s wasteful landfill levy costs? A: Learn from the fable about three goats that had eaten their own precious resources & needed to get over a bridge guarded by a troll to access more.

We can learn from the fable about the Three Billy Goats Gruff, who had eaten their own precious resources and needed to get over a bridge guarded by a troll to access more.

Let’s bring this story into the modern context of recycling and resource use with the trolls now “trolling the Internet” spreading myths and disinformation about recycling techniques. The bridge now represents the journey to enlightenment. The goats produce three different waste streams.

For the purposes of our tale, we will use the following analogies:

  • The first goat will be the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream
  • The second goat will be commercial and industrial (C&I) waste stream
  • The third and largest goat of all, producing the most waste, will be the construction and demolition (C&D) waste stream

The first and smallest goat, which eats waste from the green and yellow bins outside our homes tells the troll, “I’m a small waste stream, why not focus your attention on my bigger brothers C&I and C&D waste?”

The Troll says “by eating you, I could influence the greatest behaviour change across the wider public, but getting everyone to cross my bridge afterward will be all the more difficult.”

With that, the troll lets the general public and their local governments over the bridge without much objection.

The second biggest goat, the goat of commercial and industrial waste tells the troll, “I’m green! Really! Read my ‘green fur’ eco-label and believe my ‘recycled content’ marketing campaign. Don’t eat me when there are bigger things you can do, like researching your own impact on the environment when you build your home or choose whether to rent an environmentally friendly office or not.”

The troll  replies “I’m not sure if I believe that particular eco-label but it says you’re very green and fluffy on the TV and internet, so it must be true. I don’t have time to research every purchasing decision that I make against your recycling claims. So you may pass to the market place.”

With that, the troll lets the industrial and mass commercial retail sectors continue to contribute to landfill waste disposal rates and use up our limited resources without any significant pressure, thinking that another troll will deal with the green washing of this waste stream and make industry accountable for the lack of information available on the Internet about their recycled materials’ re-manufacturing techniques.

The largest busiest goat of all, who likes to demolish buildings and eats up lots of naturally, excavated materials in the construction waste stream comes along.

The troll says “life cycle assessments tell me that you’re the lowest hanging fruit and by focusing my attention on you I can make the biggest impact on the waste stream. I want you to exactly what I tell you and abide by new increased government regulations.”

He tries to eat up the demo and construction goat by introducing new regulations telling the goat exactly how to cross the bridge.

“I’ve no time to talk to a troll,” the goat says. “Get out of my way and don’t delay my project. Besides, I may produce the most waste by weight but it’s easy to recycle my inert waste stream.”

The weight of his argument is too much for the troll to discredit, and nobody likes a troll that complains too much (particularly the big business ogres who like to dig up landfills mining our sand and rock for their own profits).

The irony of this story is that the largest construction goat built the bridge in the first place and knocks the troll back into place by telling him to mind his own business, much as the construction sector knows the value of using recycled materials and diverting waste away from landfill to save increasing landfill levy costs.

The biggest goat suggests to the troll that he should be looking at his own government’s expenditure, obtained from higher landfill levies, rather than telling him how to fix a bridge that the goat has already crossed before him.

The moral of this fable is that those of us doing the right thing by recycling construction and demolition waste should cross bridges by always learning more and auditing our projects’ waste streams.

We should put pressure on government to encourage the use of recycled materials in infrastructure and allow best practice recycling techniques to be developed as decided by the recycling and construction industry together, rather than mandating technologies from a position of an uninformed troll.