Bricks. Concrete. Wood.
These are just some of the wastes we generate after completing construction and demolition projects at home or in commercial spaces. Due to their bulky nature, most of these wastes stay along roads and pathways for a long time, eventually becoming tripping and environmental hazards.
If not along roads, some construction wastes end up in landfills, consuming so much space and pushing out other trash to nearby communities. In other words, there’s a greater need to recycle and reuse construction waste as much as possible.
But how far are we from this goal? Take a look at these construction waste statistics. You be the judge.
Current State of Construction Waste
Although Australia’s recycling rate improved by 57% in the last 15 years, yielding a resource recovery rate of 63%, waste generation also increased by 20% within the same timeframe. This was brought about by the country’s growing population and economic activities.
And among the biggest contributors is construction waste. As of today, the construction and demolition (C&D) industry constitutes 38% of the 75.8 Mt of waste generated in Australia, amassing 29 Mt. These include aggregates, wood, soil, and many more.
Leaping big from 23.4 Mt back in 2017, this increase has also greatly affected national waste management targets. Specifically, this is how some of Australia’s waste goals are faring today:
- Reduce total waste generated in Australia by 10% per person by 2030.
Unfortunately, this target is not proceeding as planned, as the total waste generated in Australia has increased by 3% instead of decreasing since 2017. The increasing economic activity also didn't help and caused construction waste to grow by 12.3 Mt or 73%.
- 80% average resource recovery rate from all waste streams following the waste hierarchy by 2030.
Although increasing at a slow rate, Australia's average resource recovery is surely on the right track, as it has achieved a 2.2 percentage points increase since 2017. C&D materials recovery also reflects this, as its rate continues to climb and is now comfortably sitting at 78%—the highest among all types of waste streams.
- Significantly increase the use of recycled content by governments and industry.
With the increase in resource recovery rate, the use of recycled contents in various industries increased by 15%. Construction wastes like metals and wood are the highest contributors, with 58% and 41% recovery rates.
Clearly, Aussies still have a long way to go before achieving an Australia with a 100% circular economy. But with the construction wastes taking a positive turn in terms of material recovery, reaching the targets by 2030 may not be as difficult as it seems.
It’s up to us now to continue this trend by seeking help from construction rubbish removal companies, like All Gone Rubbish Removal, lobbying policies, or trying our best to reduce waste production.
Construction Waste Trends 2024
Building and Demolition Materials
When we think of construction waste, building and demolition materials often come to mind. After all, they make up most of the C&D waste stream. These include roofing tiles, concrete, bricks, tiles, rubble, and all the bulky materials used to make buildings.
With the surging rates of urban development across Australia, especially in big states like NSW and Victoria, the generation of this waste increased by 25%, which means:
- 25.2 Mt of building and demolition wastes are generated annually, or 980 kg per capita.
- 3724 kt of building and demolition materials from the C&D waste stream are discarded in landfills.
These statistics look pretty alarming. Fortunately, building and demolition materials also have a high recovery rate of 81%. These recovered materials are most likely recycled concrete aggregates from large development projects since they have the equipment and facilities to make recovery possible.
But even if you only have a small-scale construction project, recycling building and demolition wastes is still possible with the help of removalists as reliable as All Gone Rubbish Removal. They always ensure the responsible disposal of recyclables in partner facilities.
Hazardous wastes are mostly composed of PFAS-contaminated soils and asbestos. 13% more of these wastes are generated annually ever since urban developments increased the amounts of contaminated soils and asbestos by 76% and 130%, respectively.
Although 40% of hazardous wastes are recycled and 1% is utilised for their energy value, the following statistics still pose significant risks to people and the environment:
- 6.89 Mt of building and demolition wastes are generated annually, or 268 kg per capita.
- 59% of hazardous wastes are disposed of. 1994 kt of these come from the C&D waste stream and are discarded in landfills.
Buildings, bridges, and other structures can’t stand without steel framings and other metal components. That’s why a quarter of metal wastes in Australia are found in C&D source streams. Fortunately, metal wastes have the highest recovery rate at 87%. So, even if construction projects consume so much metal, most would likely be reused and recycled over and over.
This is also why only 55 kt of metals from C&D waste streams are discarded in landfills.
Another type of construction waste on the rise is organics, mostly made up of garden wastes and timber if they come from the construction and demolition waste stream. This type of waste currently has recovery and recycling rates of 58% and 47%, respectively.
Furthermore, organics didn’t increase so much as the other types of waste and only grew by 3% since 2017.
- 14.4 Mt of building and demolition wastes are generated annually, or 562 kg per capita.
- 413 kt of hazardous wastes from the C&D waste stream are discarded in landfills.
How the Government Takes Action
Given the situation and construction waste trends, the Australian Government has clarified that no construction waste can deter the country’s waste reduction targets. Consequently, each state has launched unique initiatives and programs to redirect construction and renovation wastes from landfills.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
ACT introduced bulky waste collection services to address the growing construction waste in July 2021. This has helped the region attain a 39% recovery rate. It also secured an additional landfill capacity of around 2.4 million cubic metres for bulky wastes that cannot be recycled or reused.
New South Wales (NSW)
On the other hand, NSW has focused its funds on the Waste Less, Recycle More program since 2012, which supports and promotes recycling and waste management education drives, initiatives, and policies. Based on the latest reports, the program has achieved the following:
- 43% litter reduction
- Additional 2.7 Mt recycling capacity
- Collection of about 30000 tonnes of household problem waste through 96 Community Recycling Centres and Household Chemical CleanOut events.
Northern Territory (NT)
Although NT has implemented EPA’s electronic hazardous waste tracking system, the region has had difficulty managing waste since many of its landfills servicing remote towns and Aboriginal communities are unlicensed.
QLD government has continued supporting waste reduction initiatives under its Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy, such as the Organics Strategy and action plans supporting circularity.
South Australia (SA)
As for South Australia, the state promotes material recovery and proper construction waste disposal by implementing a $0 levy for packaged asbestos waste and a 50% levy waiver for shredder floc from scrap metal recycling activities.
Tasmania has passed the Waste and Resource Recovery Act 2022, introducing its first landfill levy. The region aims to use the collected funds for landfill and resource recovery facilities. The levy starts at $20 per tonne and will rise to $40 in 2024 and $60 in 2026.
The Victorian Government's $515 million investment, with $380 million dedicated to the Recycling Victoria: a new economy policy, marks a significant effort in reshaping the state's waste and recycling system. This ambitious policy, targeting a shift to a circular economy by 2030, aims to cut waste, generate employment, and revamp the waste management sector.
In 2019–20, Victoria achieved a milestone by recovering 11.05 million tonnes of material, with 91% processed locally. Local councils also recorded a historic collection of 2.4 million tonnes of waste, including organics and renovation waste.
Western Australia (WA)
The Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste sector has responded well to Western Australia’s levy increases, exceeding the state's targeted recovery rate of 77% for C&D materials by 2025. But, the reported recovery rate might be influenced by including unprocessed materials stored in stockpiles.
Construction Waste Recycling & Disposal
Although 78% of construction wastes are recovered, we can’t ignore that around 6.409 Mt of concrete, asbestos, metals, and timber still end up in landfills annually. Fortunately, there are many things we can do and support to solve this problem apart from existing government efforts.
Some of these are:
- Support construction waste plants and Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)
- Visit local recycling centres
- Inquire about your suburb’s kerbside recycling collection scheme
- Hire Sydney rubbish removal services for renovation waste removal and demolition cleanup
- Donate to charities and donation centres
- Utilise recycled concrete aggregates
With the increasing number of construction waste, people and society must engage in recycling and responsible disposal efforts actively. Otherwise, landfills will run out of space earlier than their expected lifetime, and some waste will eventually end up polluting lands and bodies of water.
It’s not yet too late. We can still turn this around by ensuring our wastes, especially the big ones from construction projects, are properly disposed of with the help of reliable rubbish removal companies like All Gone Rubbish Removal. They have the tools, skills, and a strong environmental commitment to properly sort, collect, and discard your renovation waste and even provide demolition cleanups.
So, you can be sure that all collected construction waste will be recycled or reused as much as possible.