Demolition Waste Management In Ireland Construction Essay

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To examine the waste management regimes in the construction industry in Ireland, with specific reference to the changes which have occurred since the peak of construction activity. The project will detail the practices associated with C&D waste recycling at the height of the construction boom. Changes will have taken place since then will be investigated, and the project will critically review the current and likely future practices, based on the projections for the industry, but in terms of scale and focus.


Carry out a literature review of the topic Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste recycling after the downturn.

Inspect what exactly C&D waste consists of. This will give a detailed account of the different types of materials in C&D waste and the difficulty in recycling each material.

Identify the different ways of recycling C&D waste and discover the uses for these recycled materials.

Examine the construction industry in Ireland and Europe both before and after the downturn. This should give a detailed account of the size of the construction industry and the types of construction carried out before and up to 2007 and examine the changing nature in the construction sector after the downturn.

Examine C&D waste recycling trends in Ireland by reviewing any relevant documents and publications which reveal the transformation in the recycling industry in recent years.

Examine the environmental impacts and economic benefits of recycling C&D waste and discover any barriers which prevent C&D waste recycling from being carried out to its full potential.

Predict the trend C&D waste recycling is likely to take over the coming years and investigate a suitable way of increasing the volume of waste recycled.

Research Methodology

The first place I searched for information on Construction and Demolition waste recycling was on the internet. I believed this would give me the background information with which I could then build on. I began by entering key words into google e.g. waste generation, C&D recycling, construction industry in Ireland. This method of research was great for obtaining statistics and reports relating to the construction industry and waste generation. The professional bodies which provided me with the most valuable information to date were: (Environmental Protection Agency Ireland) (Department of the Environment) (Construction Industry Federation) (Central Statistics Office) (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (European Environmental Agency) (European Environment Information and Observation)

The library was the next source I tried for information. I searched the library catalogue for books that would contain C&D and waste generation and recycling. I found a number of books, two of which were specifically relevant to my project.

Pledger, DM, "A complete guide to demolition", the Construction Press Ltd., 1977.

EPA, "Ireland's Environment 2004", Environmental Protection Agency, 2004.

While searching for books on the library catalogue I stumbled upon the online databases. By entering key words like waste reports, construction, demolition and recycling I was able to find valuable relevant information. The online databases provided me with an unlimited supply of reports, case studies and background information. There were three particular databases which I found most helpful.

Science Direct

ISI Web of Knowledge


Other sources of information include a masters thesis and a final year project which were given to me by my project supervisor John P. Murphy.

Riordan, J. (2008), "Feasibility of Utilising Construction and Demolition Waste and Dredge Material as a Landfill Liner", Cork Institute of Technology.

Morey, P. (1999), "Reuse/Recycling of Materials from the Demolition of the Blackpool Flats", Cork Institute of Technology.

Not only were these two projects great sources of information relating to my topic but they also provided me with references. These references led me to interesting internet sites and to another relevant final year project.

Lynch, N. (2002), "Construction and Demolition Waste Arisings 2002", Cork Institute of Technology.

I also contacted KWD recycling after finding their office number online. I got in contact with Michael Buckley, a sales representative for KWD, who is going to compile information regarding the levels of C&D waste recycled by KWD over the past number of years.

For the rest of the research I plan to continue using the internet to search up to date documents and publications regarding the construction industry and Ireland and Europe. The one flaw regarding the online data bases is that most of the information is outdated when compared to the internet. I plan to contact people in relation to surveying buildings for the implementation stage where I am going to compare the cost of demolition to deconstruction.

Recycling Explained

What is recycling?

Recycling is the method by which waste materials and converted into new products. It includes the transporting, collecting, sorting, cleaning, remanufacturing and reusing of materials as opposed to throwing them away. Recycling is a key way of helping in the conservation of energy, reducing the amount of waste being discarded in landfills and plays a key role in the maintaining the supply of raw materials. Almost all everyday items can be recycled including plastics, glasses, paper and even batteries. This method of recycling can be used in the construction industry when materials are no longer wanted and instead of disposing of them in a landfill they can be recycled. The demolition of buildings in particular is a process which produces a lot of waste. The best way to cut down of the waste of these materials is to recycle them so they can be reused instead of manufacturing new products.

Construction and Demolition Waste

According to a 1995 EPA report on Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste, C&D waste comes from the 'construction, renovation, repair, and demolition of structures such as residential and commercial buildings, roads, and bridges.' This C&D waste can vary from site to site but a large proportion of C&D waste is composed of masonry, plasterboard, wood and asphalt along with a contribution from plastic, metal, earth and insulation. (US EPA, 1995)

National Waste Reports

Information Sources

Information relating to the total quantity of C&D waste for the year is obtained from three different sources. The three sources are the EPA-licensed landfills, EPA-licensed waste treatment facilities and waste permit holders. (EPA, 2004)

Recovery and Disposal Rates

Recovery and disposal rates are mentioned numerous times throughout the National Waste Reports.

Recovery means that the waste is being re-used or recycled and is serving a useful purpose by conserving other natural resources that would otherwise have to be used.

Disposal is simply the opposite of recovery. The material is not being re-used or recycled to fulfil a particular function. It is disposed of into a landfill or incinerated. (BiPRO, 2009)

2008 National Waste Report

The figures from the National Waste Report for 2008 show that the total estimated quantity of C&D waste collected in Ireland was 13.5 million tonnes. This figure represents a drop of 24% from 2007. The main component of this C&D was soil and stones which was estimated to be 10.5 million tonnes. As shown in figure 1 below the recovery rate for 2008 for soil and stones was 79%. (EPA, 2008)

Figure 1

European Waste Catalogue

In many reports relating to C&D waste under the list of terms, C&D waste is referred to as 'all wastes mentioned in Chapter 17 of the European Waste Catalogue (EWC)'. The EWC is used to classify all waste types including hazardous wastes which form the source for all international waste reports. For hazardous wastes a consignment note is usually required and the main requirement of this to describe the waste. This is where the EWC comes into play. The EWC codes comprise of over 600 codes divided up into 20 chapters which are then sub-dived. All of the codes are made up of six digits. Any waste that is deemed hazardous is marked with an asterisk. Chapter 17 is dedicated to Construction and Demolition Wastes (including excavated soil from contaminated sites). This Chapter is sub divided into nine listing all wastes associated with C&D ranging from concrete, bricks, tiles and ceramics to gypsum-based construction material. (EPA, 2002)

Construction Industry in Ireland

Building and construction output for 2010

The total volume of output in the construction sector fell by 32.8% in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the same period the previous year. The residential and non-residential sectors are mainly to blame for this decline as the volume of output produced for both sectors fell by 41% and 36% respectively. Figure 2 below clearly shows the decline in the volume of output in the second quarter of 2010 when compared to 2009.

Figures for 2010 also reveal that the volume of production decreased by 8.3% between the first two quarters of 2010. There were falls in the volume of civil engineering which fell by 6.8% and the residential and non-residential building sectors fell by 10.7% and 7% respectively. (CSO 2010)

Figure 2

Outlook for the future

Residential Sector

Over the coming years, any recovery in the output produced in the residential sector is very doubtful. There is an excess supply of houses after the boom years. The fact that new houses are not selling is a huge problem as it prevents the circulation of money in the housing sector. When new houses aren't being sold, investors can't repay loans to banks and then the banks have to restrict the availability of credit. It is estimated that the residential sector will continue to decline with only 10,000 new units being built in 2010 and 2011 compared to an estimated 17,000 in 2009. (DEHLG 2009)

Private non-residential sector

The private sector has also been severely damaged by the downturn in the economy. There is also oversupply of office building, warehouses and retail buildings. This sector is not expected to recover anytime soon due difficulties getting finance for projects, rising levels of unemployment and high debt levels by investors. The weakness in this sector is also verified after a survey was carried out by the Construction Industry Council (CIF) revealing that there was a huge reduction in demand for office buildings. Also in the report key factors in damaging the confidence of clients for these buildings were the failure of the residential sector, uncertainty regarding the future of the economy and the recession.

Public Sector

The economic forecast for the public sector construction activity is a decline of 10% in 2010 and 17% in 2011 according to the DEHLG. This sector seems to be the one with the best prospects over the coming years. The main source of funding for the public sector is directly from the state and semi-state companies. It is expected that energy infrastructure will increase greatly over the coming years. (DHLG 2009)

House Prices

The average cost of a new house in Ireland increased from the year 2002 to 2007. In 2007, a new house in Ireland cost an average of €320,000 which was an increase in price of 65% since 2002. The sharpest rise in house prices occurred in 2003 when the average price of a new house rose by 13%. However, this increase in price for new houses began to slow down in 2006 as shown in the figure below. (CSO 2008)

Figure 3: Change in house prices 2002 - 2007

Employment in Construction

The mass employment experienced during the economic boom is rapidly reversing. According to the DEHLG, there are no indicators of any return to economic growth yet but instead there are slower rates of decline emerging. During the year 2009, almost 50% of all job losses in Ireland were in the construction sector. This was approximately 78,000 that were lost in 2009 alone. The total number of people employed in the construction industry at the peak in 2007 was 275,200. This high level of employment stands in stark contrast to the 132,800 people that were employed in the construction sector in 2009. (DEHLG 2009)

Construction Industry in Europe

Construction Industry up to 2007

Type of construction

Volume of waste recycled before downturn

Changes in the type and activity in construction sector

Future of C&D recycling

Environmental Impacts

Economic Benefits

Expected levels of waste


This is the process where a building is carefully disassembled in order to utilise the materials in a building. These salvaged materials can then be reused and recycled. Examples of materials which can be salvaged include roofing, flooring, windows and doors. The benefits of deconstructing as opposed to demolishing a building include the conservation of natural resources, a greater reduction in materials discarded in landfills, the creation of jobs and the recovery of rare materials which are in high demand such as old slate. (Kinsella, 2000)

The Deconstruction Process

The same as the construction of a building has a sequence which must be followed to ensure safety, the deconstruction of a building is the same, except for the fact that it is the complete reverse. The materials which were fixed into place last in the construction of a building are the materials which are to be removed first in the deconstruction process. In addition to dismantling the materials, they must also be processed. In Ireland, for timber framed housing, the timber framing of a building has to be denailed, lifted and carried outside where it must be stacked on spacers and covered in plastic to ensure it doesn't get wet and rot. The timber flooring must be disassembled and stacked in bundles and should be stored inside so it does not get exposed to any moisture. The brick has to be broken free and all mortar has to be cleaned off the bricks and then bricks must then be stacked and covered. Doors, windows, toilets, sinks and bathtubs must also be removed and should be also stored indoors until ready to be transported. (US EPA, 1997)

Deconstruction vs. Demolition

The Riverdale Case Study

A case study prepared for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 1997 produced some interesting evidence involving deconstruction as opposed to demolition. Despite what people may think about deconstruction being a lengthy and high cost procedure this case study gives a different account. According to the case study, which was carried out in Maryland, in the US, standard demolition of the 2,000 square foot residential building was estimated at a cost between $7,000 and $10,000. This compares to the deconstruction of the building which was carried out with a cost between $9,021 and $10,802. This case study was carried out and monitored to prove that the cost difference between deconstruction and demolition is not what one would expect. The difference in cost between the two in this case study was minimal.

The report outlines that 70% of all the materials from the building were dismantled and could be recycled and materials such as framing timber went on to be sold for 50% of retail value. The benefits that are not included in the costs were the minimal disturbance to the site itself, conservation of landfill space and decreased dust levels around the site. (US EPA, 1997)

Even though this single project alone cannot forecast what will happen for other cases in the demolition and deconstruction sectors, it does however seem reasonable to look more favourably on deconstruction after looking into some of the results and figures. From the above case study, it leads one to believe that deconstruction may be a viable option and should be considered when clearing a site.