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What is Construction and Demolition Waste?

What is Construction and Demolition Waste?

Construction and demolition waste are not polar opposites, even if one means to build and the other means to destroy. 

Construction waste refers to everything that needs to be disposed of while making a new product. In contrast, demolition waste is created when something is destroyed. 

So, if a builder has to move a rock to build your house, that rock (or the rubble left over from the moving process) is construction waste. 

If the same builder blows up your neighbour’s house, that rubble is demolition waste. 

Both construction and demolition waste form part of the waste management process. They can be discussed as similar because both are commonly dealt with by demolition and excavation companies, builders, contractors, project managers, and project developers. 

In this blogpost, you’ll understand what construction and demolition waste are and why managing both is essential. 

We will discuss how waste is managed in Australia by landfills, recycling centres, or incinerators. 

As construction and demolition are some of Australia’s largest industries, we hope you’ll leave with a better understanding of waste management systems. 

What is construction and demolition waste?

breakdown, demolition, mess

Construction and demolition waste is created from all construction and demolition projects.

The New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency notes that construction and demolition waste can result from several activities and produce a wide variety of garbage. 

They note that it can include excavated material, bricks, concrete, asbestos, and other materials.

Anyone involved in the construction and demolition industries should consider how their activities can create waste. 

A good rule of thumb is that everything that might be called waste is.

It’s also important to consider the potential hazards of construction waste. Asbestos is a famous example.

Asbestos as construction waste in Australia

Asbestos is a naturally forming, fibrous material once lauded as an ideal construction material. It was abundant and malleable, making it perfect for quick and cheap construction jobs for military purposes or low-cost housing. 

Asbestos is also resistant to corrosion, heat, and electrical surges, making it one of the safest materials available. 

It also gets into human lungs, causing deadly diseases like lung cancer and asbestosis. 

The Australian government banned the use of asbestos in 2003. 

A good move for citizens wanting to live in a safe environment, but a nightmare for those already living under the material. This issue was compounded when these houses and buildings began to be demolished. 

Because it is hazardous, demolishing buildings constructed with asbestos requires skilled workers to know the dangers. This has created a waste demolition industry capable of tackling the task safely and effectively.

However, demolition teams are just some of those who need to deal with asbestos as a hazardous waste product. Construction companies found that homeowners and businesses built with asbestos wanted to renovate and remove the product.

Construction and demolition waste in Australia

Construction and demolition waste result from the large construction sector in the Australian economy. Demolition projects, which involve destroying buildings and other demolition activities, generate a great deal of waste that needs to be managed.

Both construction and demolition have created sizeable industries, and despite involving opposite tasks, they are often combined in strange ways.

Construction and demolition share possible environmental impacts. While demolition activity can actively destroy parts of the environment, constructing a new building produces materials that must be disposed of.

Safety in construction and demolition waste

crane, construction, lift

While asbestos is a known harmful substance, many others exist. This needs to be remembered when it comes to construction and demolition waste.

Safety is essential, and not just for the humans involved. If you improperly dispose of a potentially hazardous chemical from a construction site, that chemical can pollute the surrounding environment. 

The effects of this can remain for years after the construction and demolition project has been completed. Your poor waste management will still be there and can still adversely affect human health and well-being. 

But this is not to say that there aren’t safety considerations that must be handled with caution on the job.

Explosives and other earth-moving materials are common in demolition and excavation projects. We’re not going to discuss the safety equipment—like hard hats and high-visibility jackets—needed to operate these tools. 

Instead, it’s worth considering what safety equipment is needed when handling various construction and demolition waste types.

Here’s some essential equipment: 

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Safe storage vessels for hazardous waste
  • Transport materials to remove all the waste
  • Bins
  • Skips
  • Soil contamination readers

In general, safety is an important aspect to consider in any industry. The risk is ever present in construction and demolition activities.

But safety needs to go beyond the obvious concerns of dangerous materials. Human health needs to be considered to prevent future harm.

Entering the Demolition and Construction industry

The construction and demolition waste industry has some barriers to entry. Because it involves handling waste materials, skill, expertise, and money are needed.

But the industry has its perks. For one, the construction industry remains a large part of the Australian economy, generating nearly $360 million annually.

The differences between construction waste and demolition waste

demolition, building, architecture

Defining the differences between construction and demolition waste can be challenging for several reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to separate waste materials created from both demolition and construction activities because various types of waste materials are found in each.

Let’s unpack this through an example.

Say you tear down a house. The rubble of bricks and timber left over is considered demolition waste. However, this waste also contains materials that can be recycled and used again in construction. Recall that both construction and demolition activities create similar waste.

Then, there is the fact that different types of waste exist within the waste materials. Hazardous waste, for instance, can be mixed with old concrete and wood. These seemingly safe types of waste are at risk of contamination if left in the same bins.

As time has passed, the construction industry has lessened its use of hazardous materials like asbestos. While safer building materials minimise the risk of contamination and danger, careful handling is still required.

Construction and demolition activities create similar waste materials that adversely affect human health. Therefore, any bulk waste produced by both activities must be separated as best as possible.

How can I start a construction and demolition waste management company?

Starting a construction and demolition waste management company can be daunting but highly rewarding. As mentioned, construction and demolition projects are vital to Australia’s industry-heavy economy, which means there is potential for high profits.

construction site, demolition, excavator

But there’s also a lot of industry red tape to get through.

First, you should consider what government regulations exist in your country. In Australia, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, The Environment and Water offers guides that would be a good starting point.

It should be remembered that this blog needs to provide legal expertise. It’s best to consult local authorities for relevant information.

This should be good for you. Construction and demolition waste often contains precious resources, even if it looks like scrap metal. Processing these bulk waste items can help you turn a profit.

Proper recycling can reuse demolition waste, in particular. This can generate profit and help the whole demolition industry achieve environmental sustainability.

Here are some refined tips:

  • Invest in waste processing materials
  • Advertise your construction and demolition waste management services
  • Have team members trained in handling excavated materials and construction activities
  • Know what valuable materials are common in the construction sector

The construction and demolition waste management industry can be very lucrative if entered and worked correctly.

What are the components of construction and demolition waste?

Construction and demolition waste (CD waste) comes from building, repairing, renovating, and demolishing various buildings.

While household and commercial buildings are the most common waste generators, the CD waste industry handles roads, bridges, and other manufactured structures.

What percentage of construction and demolition waste must be recycled?

As a rule, the more construction and demolition waste is recycled, the better. Processing valuable resources from the disposal of materials helps the construction industry generate income through either resale or repurposing. It also lessens the environmental impact of construction and demolition.

Local governments and councils do set recycling targets. For instance, the New South Wales government set its construction and demolition waste recycling rate target at 80%, and the South Australian government set its target at 90%.

Tips for dealing with demolition waste

The three main methods for dealing with demolition waste are reducing, reusing, and recycling. This is in line with global environmental sustainability methods that seek to minimise the effects of climate change.

1. Reducing demolition waste

Reducing the amount of demolition waste begins during the construction process. Building materials should be procured and used with sustainability in mind. This means all building materials used in the construction process should be minimised.

Unnecessarily used concrete, for example, will only create more waste in the long run.

2. Reusing demolition waste

Resource recovery, which refers to using materials again after they have been demolished, is a common practice in the demolition industry.

An excellent example of resource recovery is not throwing old bricks into landfills if they can be safely used in other projects.

All building materials are valuable resources in their own way. Innovative demolition waste management involves finding ways to reuse what others would discard.

3. Recycling demolition waste

Recycling is one of the most commonly used waste management projects. This is because it highlights environmental sustainability, whereas little waste is disposed of as possible.

Instead of putting valuable resources and other materials to waste, they are recycled into new usable products.

It is also very profitable. Scrap metal processing projects reached roughly $4.3bn in 2023 alone.

Note that the three tips for dealing with demolition waste centre around extending the life of the building materials. Clever demolition activities ensure no material goes to waste disposal sites like landfills.

Excavation vs demolition

As counterintuitive as it may sound, the construction industry commonly excavates and demolishes. Remember that construction and demolition go hand in hand. However, there are differences between excavation and demolition. Understanding them is essential when dealing with demolition waste and excavated materials.

Generally, excavation involves hollowing out a site, while demolition involves destroying building materials. Both are done in the construction industry because it is rare for a new building to be constructed without some degree of destruction.

It’s important to remember that archaeologists are particularly interested in the excavated material on some sites. In Australia, the excavated material remains of colonised cultures are protected under historic heritage law. Such items can’t be recycled and can’t end up in landfills!

This is an essential factor in the construction and demolition waste industry. Valuable resources can look like waste. For this reason, you must garner all relevant information about a site before beginning any construction, excavation, or demolition activities.