Construction Waste Recycling

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Construction waste can be defined as relatively clean, heterogeneous building materials generated from the various construction activities such as demolition.

Recycling construction waste

Recycling construction waste is the separation and recycling of recoverable waste materials generated during construction and remodelling.

Packaging, new material scraps and old materials and debris all constitute potentially recoverable materials.

Depending on what particular building project is being carried out, old and excess recyclable materials can include:

  • Masonry for reuse in construction or for crushing to make road bases
  • Windows, doors, and roofing (where reusable) for use in other habitations
  • Appliances and fixtures, including sinks and baths, for refitting elsewhere
  • Lumber and wood products (where reusable) for reuse, or conversion to mulch or biomass fuel
  • Metals for smelting and conversion into other products
  • Vegetation and trees for replanting if feasible, or for biomass fuel
  • Cardboard and paper for pulping
  • Plastic crates/container, bags and sheets (where reusable)

Some materials can even have a negative impact on health and the environment if they are simply disposed of as landfill.

For example, lead in contact with water makes the water toxic. Plasterboard in landfills releases hydrogen sulfide, which is a poisonous gas.

Construction material recycling

Most construction waste goes into landfills, increasing the burden on landfill loading and operation. Waste from sources such as solvents or chemically treated wood can result in soil and water pollution.

Some materials can be recycled directly into the same product for re-use. Others can be converted into other usable products. Unfortunately, recycling that requires reprocessing is not usually economically profitable, unless a facility using recycled resources is located near the material source. Many construction waste materials that are still usable can be donated to non-profit organizations. This keeps the material out of the landfill and supports a good cause.

The most important step for construction material recycling is on-site separation. Initially, this will take some extra effort and training of the construction personnel. Once separation routines are in position, on-site separation can be done at little or no additional cost.

The primary step in a construction waste reduction strategy is good planning. Design should be based on standard sizes and materials should be ordered accurately. Additionally, using high-quality materials such as engineered products reduces rejects. This approach can reduce the amount of material needing to be recycled and bolster profitability and economy for the builder and customer.

Construction waste removal

Construction waste accounts for about 25% of all refuse globally. With these statistics, it’s clear that even modest efforts to make better use of debris or existing building materials can make significant changes.

For contractors, construction waste removal is a continuous effort. The challenge has always been how to manage it cost-effectively.

The Construction industry, while it can be a profitable industry, comes with a large number of unique challenges.

In addition to weather, bureaucracy and labor issues, there's finding the most efficient and cost-effective means of dealing with the construction waste and debris that is produced on every job.

While safety is often uppermost in the minds of most general contractors, right before budgets and time frames, there is always, always the matter of cleaning up and hauling off the junk and debris.

Construction waste management

Responsible construction waste management is a crucial aspect of sustainable building. In this context, managing waste means eliminating waste where possible; minimizing waste where feasible; and reusing materials which might otherwise become waste.


Solid construction waste management practices have identified the reduction, recycling, and reuse of construction waste as essential for sustainable management of resources.

Effective management of construction waste requires coordinated action of governmental, business, and professional groups and their activities.

Recycling building materials

High-quality recycled building materials are an equally good substitute for natural building materials, thus contributing to the protection of landscape by reducing extraction areas and pits respectively.

By recycling building materials on site or in the nearer region finally, big quantities of CO2 are saved which otherwise would be released by removing waste and supplying natural building materials frequently over large distances.

Thus, recycling building materials will also pay a remarkable contribution to climate protection.

Reusable building materials

Building materials that can readily be reused include:

  • Stairs
  • Timber
  • Thermal insulation
  • Carpet and carpet tiles
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Electrical fittings
  • Linings and finishings
  • Doors and windows
  • Clay and concrete roof tiles
  • Metal wall and roof claddings
  • PVC and metal spouting

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