Types of Construction Waste and How to Dispose them Properly

Here are the most common types of construction waste, and how these are disposed of after the project has been completed.
July 7, 2022

Construction work is messy, and a typical construction site would yield tons of demolition waste after every project. These wastes aren't simply thrown in the trash - they may be incinerated, recycled, or otherwise reused. In this article, we'll present how 7 common types of construction waste are disposed of or recycled!

7 Types of Construction Waste

#1 Excavation Waste Materials

Excavation materials, or dredging materials, are types of construction and demolition waste typically generated during the preparation of the land as a construction site. These include tree stumps, wood, grass, leaves, rocks, and soil that were already present in the land before dredging or excavation began.

While most of these construction waste products are tossed in landfills, modern waste management programs now segregate compostable materials to be used as compost and mulching, while rocks and soil are treated and used as recycled materials in gardens, parks, and other natural spaces.

What are They: Trees, wood, tree stumps, rocks, pebbles, soil, leaves, grass, organic materials, and plant matter

Disposal Methods: Sent to landfills or composting sites; Used to fill natural spaces, gardens, and parks.

#2 Plastic Waste Materials

Plastic is used in temporary housing, and as raw material during construction. Plastic is part of construction and demolition waste as excess building materials, and demolition waste from deconstructed homes and buildings. Plastic waste generation continues to grow year-on-year, and is becoming a heightening environmental concern.

Plastic waste materials are generally tossed in landfills or in incinerators. However, growing concerns over the effects of plastic to environmental performance has encouraged construction sites to recycle plastic, and use recycled plastic in constructing roads, homes, and other infrastructures.

What are They: Plastics used in construction sites, such as plastic liners, excess plastic material, tarpaulin material, temporary housing, plastic covers, etc.

Disposal Methods: Sent to landfills and incinerators; Recycled as raw materials

#3 Glass, Ceramics, Bricks, and Tiles

Ceramics, glass, and tiles are considered demolition waste construction sites often leave behind after a project. Cleanup of these materials can be tricky, as these construction materials easily break into small, sharp pieces, and are hazardous when shattered.

Glass and ceramics may be recycled, mixed into concrete to create mosaic-styled designs. They may be pulverised into a powder or sand-like substance, and processed into raw material fillers for use in other construction projects. Bricks may be reused as reclaimed materials. However, these waste products are often tossed in landfills together with other demolition materials.

What are They: Glass, ceramics, bricks, porcelain, grout, clay, and other similar materials.

Disposal Methods: Recycled as shards or fillers; Tossed in the landfill

#4 Metals and Wood

Metals and wood are some of the most common construction waste, particularly as structural foundations are made of either metal or wood. These building materials are non-toxic, and are considered as construction and demolition waste. They may be processed into new raw materials through recycling.

Wood from construction and demolition debris may be composted or used as reclaimed wood. Non-toxic metals are smelted down, and moulded into new scaffolding, flooring, decor, or girders. Recycling these materials minimises waste streams in construction sites, and promotes sustainable waste management.

What are They: Metals and wood used in construction as scaffolding, flooring, foundation, or raw materials.

Disposal Methods: Raw material recycling; Wood may be composted or reclaimed.

#5 Cement and Concrete Debris

Cement, concrete, and other mixed debris is a common form of demolition waste left behind by nearly all construction projects. Cement and concrete debris are processed as solid waste, and may be sent to construction recycling facilities that process the construction waste into rubble and sand to be used as fillers in creating infrastructures.

Cement and concrete rubble may be used in revetments, as landscaping gravel, to fill up roads and sidewalks, or recycled as raw materials for future construction projects. Recycling cement and concrete debris is much cheaper and less complicated than sending the rubble for landfill disposal. Recycling also decreases the construction waste generated in projects.

What are They: Solid and uncured cement, concrete blocks, rubble, and other debris

Disposal Methods: Recycled into crushed rubble for road and infrastructure projects

#6 Paints and Sealants

Both liquid and dried paint, as well as liquid and cured sealant are part of the construction waste generated after completing the construction process. Depending on the amount leftover from the project, unused paint and sealant may be reused in future projects.

However, dried paint chips, cured sealant, spilled materials, and toxic substances such as paint thinner are processed under construction waste management programs. These are taken to the landfill, or tossed in the incinerator to dispose of the waste materials.

What are They: Liquid paint, paint chips, paint thinner, varnish, paint remover, adhesives, liquid sealant, cured sealant, and similar substances.

Disposal Methods: Reused in other projects; Tossed in the landfill; Incinerated

#7 Coal and Tar

Coal and tar are among the construction and demolition waste that are considered hazardous waste. They comprise of elements that may be harmful to the health and the environment when disposed of carelessly, so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly maintains guidelines on the waste disposal methods and recycling process of these materials.

Coal, tar, sludge, and even paint containing lead must be disposed of in a proper waste management facility, where the toxic elements will be contained. Coal and tar may be recycled into fuel for steel-blast furnaces.

What are They: Coal, tar, tar sludge, lead paint, asbestos-containing materials, and other toxic, construction-related waste.

Disposal Methods: Contained; Incinerated; Recycled into fuel

Sustainable Management of Waste Products

Construction sites are required to comply by proper waste management guidelines when disposing of their wastes sustainably. They are responsible for the waste left behind from their projects, and must find the proper avenues for disposing of materials, particularly toxic or hazardous materials.

At Colebuild, we take measures to ensure our projects are done sustainably from start to finish. We monitor our waste generation responsibly to prevent hazardous waste from making it to natural resources, and to minimise waste generated from our projects. Stick to eco-friendly construction, and collaborate with us for sustainable building!

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