| Waste management

A Guide to Construction Waste

To reduce the amount of construction waste produced, companies must understand the nature of this waste and follow expert advice outlined in our sustainable waste management programmes. Here are some of the most important things to know before eliminating construction waste.

What type of waste is concrete?

Concrete waste is inert waste, meaning that it is not a biological or chemical material. It does not cause harm to surrounding areas, unlike chemical materials, but does not decompose in the same way as biological materials. The construction industry also produces significant amounts of inert waste, so it should be reused rather than dumped in landfills.

What are the sources of construction waste?

Construction waste can come in the form of building materials (wood, plaster, metal), dredging materials (trees, rubble, dirt), and hazardous materials (asbestos, mercury, solvents). The industry creates a significant amount of these materials. In fact, according to a study conducted in 2018, the construction and demolition sector was responsible for 138 million tonnes of waste. Out of this, 63 million was sustainably disposed of, usually through downcycling back into the industry, and 5 million was sent to landfill sites.

Why is construction waste bad?

Construction waste can cause harm to animals, local ecosystems, and human beings. It is therefore imperative to dispose of these materials appropriately, ensuring that it does not contaminate the air, ground, or surrounding water sources. But not all construction waste can be easily recycled.

Some waste is hazardous, such as asbestos found in homes built before 2000. These microscopic fibres can cause harm to humans and animals in surrounding areas, increasing the risk of asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung and colon cancers. As a result, it is important to use specialised asbestos removal services.

Other examples of hazardous construction waste, such as solvents (VOCs), can be redistributed into the distribution line. VOCs can be redistributed through distillation, filtering and preserving pure vapours. This encourages a circular approach to waste management, preserving elements of otherwise volatile materials.

What are the effects of construction and demolition waste?

In addition to hazardous substances causing possible damage to surrounding areas, construction and demolition waste can have lasting effects on the environment. There is research to suggest that the construction industry is responsible for 39 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. This means that tackling construction waste is paramount, reducing and eliminating it at all stages of the process.

How is construction waste used?

There are multiple ways professionals can tackle construction waste. Materials can be downcycled – a process that turns waste into a final product, such as concrete used for building roads and pavements. This is usually the final stage of the cycle.

Construction waste can also be recycled – reusing materials to create new products to be used throughout the sector or wider society. Steel used throughout the world, for example, is made up of 40 per cent scrap metal, and only 1 per cent goes to landfill. This material is a more sustainable option than concrete, comparatively reducing carbon emissions by 19 per cent.

Here at the Reconomy Group, we believe all waste should be managed sustainably. We’re here to advise our customers on the best routes of recycling, so do not hesitate to contact a member of our team today.