Where Does Construction Waste Go?


In Australia, more than 8 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste ended up in the landfill (the numbers are way back in 2008-2009). The total waste generated is around 19 million tonnes of which more than 10 million tonnes were recovered or recycled.

More than half of the total generated construction and demolition waste was recycled or recovered and this is already good news. We can do better though by formulating and implementing timely policies and providing financial incentives that will encourage companies to recycle instead.

Where does construction waste go?

Waste from demolition and building activities often ends up in the landfill. Back then, it’s not a cause for worry because the volume and scale were not that significant yet. However, due to economic growth and infrastructure development, more and more waste gets produced. Whether it’s because of road construction or land excavation, the waste adds up and it endangers our environment.

Aside from the increased volume of waste, the rapid economic growth and construction activities put pressure on our natural resources. In other words, we need to extract more virgin materials and process them for our use. This then depletes the resources, adds further to energy consumption and costs and increases carbon emissions. For example, cement is responsible for about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions (source). This is because in the manufacturing of cement, the chemical processes as well as fuel requirements result to release of huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

However, cement is required for economic progress. We need to create roads and buildings to enable human and commercial activities. It seems here that economic goals and environmental priorities are opposites and conflicting. What we can do then is to enable economic and construction activities while minimising environmental impact (as well as enhancing the environment as a result of construction activities).

To accomplish that, we have to analyse the entire supply chain. It’s especially the case with the disposal of construction waste and debris. This step should be performed responsibly to minimise environmental impact. After all, particles and chemicals from landfill waste can leach into the ground and water below.

It’s also crucial to encourage recycling by providing financial incentives. For example, the high landfill disposal costs provide pressure for companies to recover and recycle waste. Weight-based disposal charges accumulate and affect everyone’s bottom line. As a result, many facilities and markets now exist for recycling and using construction and demolition waste such as recycled crushed concrete for low-grade roads, mix of 10 to 15 per cent of recycled asphalt content with new asphalt material for building pavements and recovered steel from commercial demolition sites and then used for new construction projects.

This is just the beginning because the ideal is to eliminate waste altogether by using them as a new resource. It’s the essence of circular economy and industrial ecology where the output of one is the input of another (closing the loop and nothing comes out of the cycle). This is the responsible and sustainable approach for protecting the environment while allowing economic progress.

Here at E-Tech Group, we only apply responsible practices every step of the way in each of our commercial construction projects. From responsible waste disposal to even helping improve the current environmental condition of the site, our team has always been committed to sustainability. Contact us today if you want your project to be in line with our environmental priorities.