Construction and Demolition waste (CDW) accounts for nearly 30% of all EU waste. CDW arises from construction and total or partial demolition activities. CDW is a large source of secondary raw materials, consisting roughly out of wood, masonry (inert materials such as brick, concrete and rock), drywall, roofing, plastics (such as PVC, insulation) and metals. It has a strong potential for recycling and re-use because of the high value of the materials (mostly metals), the large market for re-use (such as the use of waste aggregates in roads) but also because the technology for recycling is well established.

As a result, CDW is one of the priority waste streams in the EU, with a target of 70% recycling by 2020 set in the Waste Framework Directive. There is a huge disparity in recycling rates between Member States, with some over 90% (Netherlands, Luxemburg, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Latvia) and others under 10% (Finland, Greece and Cyprus). Current recycling rates may seem high, but most of the EU Member States include “backfilling” in them, although it is a low-value application. Backfilling is a recovery operation where waste is used as a substitute for non-waste materials to reclaim excavated areas or for engineering purposes in landscaping. If backfilling is not taken into account, not a single Member State reaches the 70% target. There are many other challenges, such as varying definitions of CDW between countries, the large number of actors resulting in difficult coordination, and discrepancies in data collection methodologies. Overall, the result is that there is substantial room for improvement in higher value applications of recovered CDW.

Good practices

Flanders reaches recycling rates over 90%, due to high taxes and bans on landfilling recyclable fractions, resulting in an established market for recycled materials. In addition to policy, technological innovations can serve as good practices. The Finish ZenRobotics, for example, have shown potential to increase recovery from 70% (manual practices) to 90% by more efficient robotic sorting to separate CDW.