Construction and Demolition Waste Management
Across the EU, not just in the UK, construction and demolition waste forms a large part of the rubbish that we produce as a society. This waste consists of everything from brick, concrete and metal to gypsum, adhesives, solvents and paints. Management of the construction and demolition waste stream has improved greatly over the last couple of decades, not only improving the environment but saving companies valuable revenue by recycling and reusing products.
According the Waste Framework Directive, we should be aiming to recycle or reuse over 70% of materials produced as a result of construction, demolition or excavation. Success across the EU varies but in UK we are thought to be well ahead of this target, with some companies managing to achieve as much as 90% recycling or repurposing.
The Waste Management Hierarchy
In Wales alone we produce 3.4 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste, with over half of the companies involved being small businesses with 3 or less employees. In 2012, Welsh construction companies were recycling 88% of waste and the amount sent to landfill was just some 639,000 tonnes. The majority of this waste is produced by the civil engineering and construction industries to the tune of about 67%.
As with other industries, the construction and demolition sectors work to the principles of the waste hierarchy as set down by the EU Waste Framework Directive.
The primary focus of everything from general waste management to that in the construction and demolition sector first starts with the prevention of waste. This includes developing better, more sustainable building practices including making sure that all materials are used rather than wasted. It can also include investing in better equipment including onsite waste handling for larger projects. Not only does this stage ameliorate the impact on the environment but also saves construction companies money in the short and long term.
Finding ways to reuse construction and demolition waste is also an important part of sustainability for all companies. That not only means small companies that should make sure they use up all products they purchase for a particular job but large corporations reusing products rather than ordering bulk supplies that are left unused.
The biggest opportunity for recycling comes primarily within the demolition industry. When a building is pulled down there is a large amount of waste including wood, metal, plastic and gypsum boards that can all be sent for recycling and made into new products. Companies may bring mobile crushers onto site for materials such as concrete which can then be used for construction projects such as roads. Despite the fall in metal prices recently, recycling scrap metal creates products which can be put back into the manufacturing cycle.
One example of construction and demolition waste that can be recycled in a variety of ways is how we deal with bricks. Products include clay bricks, concrete precast bricks, stone and aerated blocks. Damaged material can be used to:
- Create aggregate for general fill, landscaping and road building.
- Make new bricks and blocks.
- Construct sport surfaces such as tennis courts.
The problems the industry encounters when recycling this kind of material are the cheap availability of new bricks and blocks as well as the time taken to clean waste products up for reuse.
More and more waste that would once have been sent to landfill is now being used to create heat and energy through incineration processes.
The final part of the waste hierarchy is sending to landfill. This has been greatly reduced in recent years with up to 90% of waste being handled sustainably and reused across a range of industries.
When it comes to demolition, the successful management of waste depends on a relationship between the contractors carrying out the work and those hiring them. This might mean spending a little extra money to supply the workforce who can separate the waste into streams which can then be sent for recycling. Overall, though, the effort is worth it.
Construction and Demolition Waste Case Study
A company like Cantillon which operates in London, prides itself on having a green approach to demolition. They have boasted at recycling 100% for one particular project but also claim that their average success is around 95%. According to their Head of Sustainability, John Rimmer:
"The demolition contractor then has to be prepared to work in partnership with hauliers, transfer stations and waste recycling centres to ensure that materials coming off demolition sites are disposed of responsibly.”
Construction and Demolition Waste Codes of Practice
More than any other industry construction and demolition has in place a number of codes of practice and waste saving initiatives including:
- The Demolition Code of Practice BS 6187:2000 sets out best practice for handling demolition and construction waste.
- The Landfill Tax was introduced to get more construction and demolition companies diverting their waste away from landfill disposal.
- The Aggregate Levy was introduced to encourage the use of recycled aggregates in construction.
- The Strategy for Sustainable Construction aims to promote best practice including waste management in the industry.
- Site Waste Management Plans have been needed by any project over £300,000 since 2008, all aimed at reducing waste and maximising resources.
Find out more about legislation and construction and demolition waste.