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United Nations Environment Programme
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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<Municipal Solid Waste Management>

Sound Practices
Special wastes

1.7.7 Construction and demolition debris

 

Construction Debris
Construction debris should be kept separate from MSW.
(credit: Warmer Bulletin)

Construction and demolition debris are generated regularly in urban areas as a result of new construction, demolition of old structures, and regular maintenance of buildings. These wastes contain cement, bricks, asphalt, wood, and other construction materials which are typically inert. In addition, and mainly in industrialized countries, they may contain some hazardous materials such as asbestos and PCBs. Very large volumes of demolition waste are generated in earthquakes and during wars.

City authorities need to avoid disposal of these wastes in the streets, since these locations can become mini-dumps. On the other hand, MSW landfills cannot receive these wastes as space can be rapidly overwhelmed. Thus, other alternatives must be considered.

Sound practices for demolition wastes are based on the concept of prevention, reuse, and recycling of waste (see box). When these practices cannot be implemented, proper disposal must be considered. Since these wastes are inert, they can be used for fill, for example in former quarries, as road base, or, in coastal cities, to gain land at the ocean front.

Special construction and demolition landfill sites are also an option. Siting of these landfills is less difficult than for regular MSW landfills since the potential environmental impact is relatively small.

 

Sound practices for reducing construction and demolition wastes
  • Waste prevention can be promoted through inventory control and return allowances for construction material. This ensures that unused materials will not get disposed of unnecessarily.
  • Selective demolition. This involves dismantling, often for recovery, selected parts of buildings to be demolished before the wrecking process is initiated.
  • On-site separation systems, using multiple smaller containers in place of a single roll-off or compactor.
  • Crushing, milling, and reuse of secondary stone and concrete materials. There can be a tie-in to approved road construction materials specifications.

 

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