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Common challenges when recycling C&D debris

9 October 2020

Recycling takes effort and despite the significant inroads made in the reuse and recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) waste materials, it’s not at straightforward as recycling waste from your home.

Builders still face a number of challenges with regards to recycling construction and demolition waste such as:

Training and education: There’s no rule book or training manual for recycling construction waste (although there’s lots of advice and information available online) so many builders aren’t aware which materials can be recycled and the best method for doing so. This makes the whole recycling process extremely difficult and time consuming. 

Equipment: On-site sorting of waste and recovered building materials is the most effective and reliable way to manage C&D waste yet many builders lack the equipment or technology to be able to efficiently and effectively sort the materials.

Demolition plans: Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is having a plan and method of reducing and reusing the waste from construction sites. Buildings are built to last; years ago we didn’t think to consider a demolition plan that would save the materials from the scrap heap in years to come. In the future builders might plan for demolition at the stage of design, with the hope of ensuring a higher recovery rate of reusable materials.

Cross-contamination: With much of the waste being sent off site for sorting the second hand building materials can get mixed up. This can lead to cross-contamination, for example brick and concrete can get thrown in with materials that contain asbestos. The on-site sorting of C&D waste material can help reduce cross-contamination.

Cost: The increasing cost of managing and recycling C&D waste is a major problem but if the options are well thought out and planned in advance builders can recoup some of their money by selling their second hand waste building materials to other companies and contractors or reusing the materials in other projects, reducing the cost to buy new virgin materials.

Despite the challenges associated with reusing, recycling and reducing C&D waste, there are major economic and environmental benefits to be had. Recognising the difficulties and looking for ways to address them could be the start of a viable waste management strategy.

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