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'Sell it don't skip it' Eco-techpreneur and founder of the Sustainability Yard app Nigel Eastham

  • Publish Date: Posted over 1 year ago
  • Author: Ben Taylor

Sustainability Yard is a platform where users of any demographic within the construction industry can buy, sell or give away their excess building materials. We intend to promote and enable the circular economy of those building materials, finding them a new home rather than having them sent to landfill from these sites, which unfortunately is what happens a lot of the time.

My name is Nigel Eastham. I am the founder of Sustainability Yard and I live in Chorley. Before starting the app, I worked in construction and before that I worked in recruitment. Construction was always something that interested me, I started out putting together a small business that bought and flipped houses. As time went by, and our projects got bigger, I found myself throwing away a huge amount materials. That led me to thinking, something should be done with these, they're perfectly reusable, if not for me then for somebody else. I also came to realise that if I was having these problems on a very small scale level, the bigger businesses must be having a similar issue.

The idea of hundreds of thousands of tons of materials being thrown away didn't sit right with me, particularly as I have a young family - I'm concerned about their future and the state of the planet we'll be leaving them.

The app is very simple, it’s a classified ads platform, like Facebook Marketplace or eBay. But the difference is that Sustainability Yard is built on a peer-to-peer community. Everyone on the platform is part of the construction community - it ranges from housing associations who are building 30, 40, 50-unit estates, national house builders and main contractors right down to local tradesmen and DIY lovers.

The businesses that are building big units have tons of, often useable, material that unfortunately goes to landfill. That's the reality. We want these companies to flood the app with those usable materials so that local tradesmen and DIY enthusiasts can get their hands on decent material either for free or at discount prices.

We've had some great traction from all the demographics I've just mentioned. Businesses can get rid of their unused materials for free and hit their sustainability targets, which they're heavily focused on nowadays.

For large construction companies there's no reason not to use it. Depending on what their business model is, at the end of a job, if they have a surplus or damaged material, they either save money on waste disposal or storage units. So it's a win-win.

We know it's working because we're growing fast. We are at over six and a half thousand users now. We think we can hit 10,000 by the end of the year, and if we do that then I think we'll reach 50,000 by Easter 2023.

Construction is my love, I'm always excited by a challenge and I like new things, but I'll be honest, getting to grips with technology and building a platform was quite a daunting prospect.

We've got a small team here, with just two from the construction industry who still run big construction firms. My other partner builds SAAS businesses, so I had his insight but, you know, it was still difficult. I found working with developers quite hard, mainly because I knew what I wanted, but I didn't know how to articulate how that would be transferred into a product. That's been the biggest challenge...working with developers who are exceptional at the job but not used to working with somebody like me who doesn't really know what to ask for.

And look, we've still not got the perfect platform. The app is still in the beta phase, I suppose you might say, but it always will be because we're always wanting to improve and build new things. The outlook is ever-evolving at the moment.

For example, we're building some really cool new features that will measure the weight of materials that people are getting rid of. The app will be able to calculate what weight has been stopped from going to landfill and will also be able to calculate the embodied carbon value of those materials. Customers will be able to see the embodied carbon saving that they’ve contributed to and help them to demonstrate that they’re meeting their ESG targets.

That's why we're building these new metrics. Customers can say we've stopped ten tons of material from going to landfill. Businesses are targeted heavily on their social impact benefit too, so the app will also demonstrate where the materials were sent to or given away to. That way businesses will be able to demonstrate the benefit to the local community.

Generally speaking, what really excites me about what it's doing and the value that it’s giving to people. We’re speaking to National House Builders, we're speaking to national developers who are seeing the value in the app and we're going to their sites. And it's just great to see them take it on board, adopting the idea, going and taking pictures of leftover materials and uploading them onto the app.

If you were ask me about this, even, two or three years ago, sustainability wasn't on my radar. But now, to be making a difference and for other people to appreciate what we've done and say, actually, yeah, I like this, we're going to use it is so rewarding

When you dig into the facts and figures around waste in the industry it’s pretty frightening. We're talking hundreds of millions of tonnes of usable materials. Why wouldn't we try to get even a small percentage of that reused?

I'm hoping to take this worldwide. At the moment, it's a national platform, we've got users in Edinburgh, we've got users in Devon and everywhere in between. And there is no reason why this platform can't be used elsewhere. We're already speaking with people outside of the UK, in Dubai, that have registered interest. There's no reason why this can't be done on an international level.

Yeah. And what we're seeing is it's not just government led and initiatives who are actually seeing this from funders who will put the money up for developers. I started to squeeze them, asking questions like, what are you doing with these access materials? What are you doing with your developments? How are you structuring so that it is as sustainable as it possibly can be?

People are being squeezed at all parts of the process from moneylenders, government, local communities. So the pinch is everywhere now. If we can offer that platform to facilitate them meeting those demands in the correct way, well then perfect.

And I guess that leads us to a final, final question. What do you think some of the biggest sustainability challenges in the construction industry in the UK are at the moment?

Very simply, just the attitude look, everyone's aware of it there. I think there is a willingness to do something about it, but it has to come from top to bottom. So it's all right. The guys in the big corporate construction firms or even the, you know, the mid tier, the tier wanted to add contracting firms. It's got to come across the board and everybody's got to have a willingness to do it.

And I think if people see that guys in the top of the tree doing it and also passing materials down to there, to the local tradesmen, the DIY as well, then it just transfers throughout the ladder, if you will. So everybody in the construction industry is aware of it. There is a willingness, it's just going to go that bit further and it's like same as anything in it.

But if you can get that extra 10% of people, it will pay dividends tenfold. I think.

Sure. So at the moment, we just really want everybody who hears about it to download it and start using it so you can find it on the App Store on Google Play. You can check us out on our website I sustainability icon and you can find us on Instagram at Sustainability Underscore Yard and but yeah, just check us out.

Come on, give us a go. We're a great community say and I've likely to be 10,000 people by the end of the year. So come and join us and come and buy and sell some some some cheap materials.