Construction activities can generate large amounts of waste materials that then need to be disposed of. In addition, at the end of a building's life, it may be deconstructed or demolished, generating significant amounts of waste. Construction waste includes waste that is generated during construction activities (such as packaging, or the products of demolition) and materials that are surplus to requirements (as a result of over-ordering or inaccurate estimating).
Typical construction waste products can include:
- Insulation and asbestos materials.
- Concrete, bricks, tiles and ceramics.
- Wood, glass and plastic.
- Bituminous mixtures, coal tar and tar.
- Metallic waste (including cables and pipes).
- Soil, contaminated soil, stones and dredging spoil.
- Paints and varnishes.
- Adhesives and sealants.
Increasingly, there are options available in terms of reusing and recycling materials, and reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place, but despite this, a large amount of construction waste is still disposed of in landfill. 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings and 13% of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfill without having being used (ref. Technology Strategy Board)
This can be an expensive process, as the 1996 Finance Act introduced a tax on waste disposal on all landfill sites registered in the UK. For more information see: Landfill tax.
To help tackle this, a site waste management plan (SWMP) can be prepared before construction begins, describing how materials will be managed efficiently and disposed of legally during the construction of the works, and explaining how the re-use and recycling of materials will be maximised. For more information, see Site waste management plan.
It may be possible to eliminate a certain amount of construction waste through careful planning. For example, steel formwork systems might be capable of being used for concrete works which can then be reused elsewhere on the project/s in place of timber formwork which is classed as waste once it has been used.
Other types of construction waste may be capable of being minimised; for example, products which are provided with reduced packaging or those which are composed of recycled materials. There can also be opportunities to re-use materials and products which are in a suitable condition (e.g. doors, windows, roof tiles and so on), or exchange them for other materials with a different construction site.
Materials and products which cannot be eliminated, minimised or reused may have to be disposed of as waste. Before sending waste for disposal, it should be sorted and classified to allow waste contractors to manage it effectively and ensure that hazardous waste is properly handled.
For more information, see Construction waste disposal.
NB Inert waste is defined in Article 2(e) of the EU Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) as waste that does not undergo significant physical, chemical or biological transformations.
Diverted waste is: 'All items removed from the project that are then recycled, reused, salvaged, composted, or otherwise diverted from landfills or incineration.' Ref The Living Building Challenge 4.0, A Visionary Path to a Regenerative Future, published by the International Living Future Institute in June 2019.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings
- Circular economy.
- Commercial waste.
- Construction & demolition waste.
- Definition of waste: Code of practice.
- Delivering waste efficiency in commercial buildings: A guide for facilities managers.
- Eliminating waste at scale – opportunities for blockchain.
- Environmental Protection Act.
- Hazardous waste.
- Hire, reclaim and reuse scheme combats construction waste.
- Household waste.
- Industrial waste.
- Landfill tax.
- Materials Management Plan (MMP).
- Municipal solid waste.
- Municipal waste.
- Quantification of construction materials in existing buildings (material intensity).
- ReCon Soil project.
- Site clearance.
- Site waste management plan.
- Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England.
- Waste and Resources Action Programme WRAP.
- Waste management - explained.
- Waste management process.
- Zero waste plan.
About the wiki
Anyone is welcome to use and contribute to the wiki in different ways.
 Engaging with the wiki
- Contribute to existing articles
- Create articles
- Share articles through social media and other channels
- Contact the CIRCuIT project to let us know what you think and how we can improve
 Add your own content
To contribute to or create an article, you can follow these steps:
- Register as a user
- Read through the editorial policy and guidance on writing and contributing to articles
- See the detailed help page on tips on writing wiki articles
- Try editing a test article
- If editing an article, select 'Edit this article' underneath the article title
- If creating a new article, select 'Create an article'. In the 'Select categories' area, expand the 'Industry context' list and tag 'Circular economy' to add your article to this wiki
 Who is this wiki for?
The articles contain information on implementing circular economy approaches in construction that could be relevant to:
- Construction contractors
- Developers, owners, investors
- Manufacturers and supplier
- Universities and research
- Urban planners
 About CIRCuIT
The Circular Economy wiki is supported by the Circular Construction in Regenerative Cities (CIRCuIT) project, which is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. CIRCuIT is a collaborative project involving 31 ambitious partners across the entire built environment chain in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Helsinki Region and Greater London. Through a series of demonstrations, case studies, events and dissemination activities, the project will showcase how circular construction practices can be scaled and replicated across Europe to enable sustainable building in cities and the transition to a circular economy on a wider scale.