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Construction waste

Construction and demolition waste is generated in the building; renovation and demolition of the buildings or other fixed structures; in civil engineering and in other construction and demolition operations. Buildings include residential, non-residential buildings and roads. Construction and demolition waste is generally divided into three categories: buildings, roads and excavation. Construction and demolition waste have usually been kept harmless for the environment, and landfilling of waste has been common. Still, it has been estimated that even up to 90% of the construction and demolition waste could be recycled. The Waste Framework Directive had a target of 70 % preparation for re-use, recycling and other material recovery for construction and demolition waste for the year 2020.

In the EU, construction and demolition waste is the largest waste stream measured by weight, being 300 – 800 million tonnes annually. It is about 32 % of the total waste amount generated. It has different materials which are inert, non-inert non-hazardous and hazardous waste. Main fraction is a mineral waste, e.g. concrete, bricks, tiles, etc., which is of low value but easily recyclable and relatively heavy. Construction and demolition waste also contains materials which has a positive market value i.e. metals, or potential value if clean fractions are collected separately e.g. plastics.

There are also some particles among the construction and demolition waste that cannot be placed in the landfills but they require specific treatment, e.g. asbestos, hard and soft PVC (polyvinyl chloride), mineral wool containing phenols, insulating material containing freons, wood containing creosote, arsenic, copper or chromium, plywood containing formaldehyde, glazed tiles containing lead, and jointing products containing freons or PCBs (polychlorinated binphenyl). Moreover, soiling of building materials may result in requirements for the recycling of the materials. Substances causing soiling include tar, peat, oil or painted surfaces. In the new construction, legislation is prohibiting the use of the dangerous material for the environment or health, but in the demolition sites of the old houses may still be hazardous wastes.

In the 2027 targets of the Finnish National Waste Plan, the amount of waste from construction should decrease and the utilisation of construction and demolition waste as material should be at least 70% level. In 2019, utilisation as material was 40%. The monitoring of the Finnish National waste plan also compiles statistics on the amount of waste from construction. In 2019, the amount of waste generated in the construction industry was approximately 13,700 thousand tonnes per year. Most of these were mineral waste and sludge, amounting to as much as 13,200 thousand tonnes per year.

In Finland, the high proportion of wood waste among the construction and demolition waste decreases the recycling percentage from the 47% of the European average level to 26% in Finland. Recycling materials can respond to a significant part of the material demand within the EU already now. For example, in steel production, the share of recycled materials is approximately 56%. Recycling construction waste can reduce the use of the new virgin material resources, reduce the costs of the logistics and reduce the amount of waste landfilled. Examples of construction waste utilisation of concrete is secondary concrete or as a base material in a road construction. Also mineral wool, for example, can be used for a raw material in the concrete industry


Waste Decree

According to the previous Waste Decree, the following types of waste must be separately collected: concrete, brick, mineral tile and ceramic waste, gypsum-based waste, untreated wood waste, metal, glass, plastic, paper and paperboard waste, and soil and stone waste. In addition, hazardous waste must be collected and delivered separately from other construction and demolition waste to the appropriate place of destination.

According to the new Waste Decree, municipalities will have to organise regional reception points for waste from small-scale construction and demolition activities. Setting of separate collection targets for asphalt, mineral wool, bitumen and roofing blanket waste will increase the separate collection and recovery of construction and demolition waste. The detailed separate collection obligations for municipal waste, packaging waste and construction and demolition waste laid down by government decree would enter into force gradually between July 2022 and July 2024.


Sorting and utilising of the construction waste

The aim is to sort the construction waste already at the construction site, from where different types of waste or mixed construction waste are forwarded for processing and reuse, recycling or other proper treatment.


* Concrete and brick crushings: in land construction, for example, in the structural layers of road and street and field structures

* Pure surplus soils: embankments, fillings, landscaping, etc.

* Wood waste: raw material for composite materials, but the majority for energy production

* Pallets and mold materials shall be reused as long as possible

Site sorting at a construction site increases cost savings, as unsorted construction waste is more expensive when delivered for waste treatment. Recyclable waste such as metal, cardboard and plastic can even be compensated.

Example of the Joensuun Elli construction site in cooperation with the Circwaste project

Student Housing Joensuun Elli required from the contractor in the tendering phase that construction waste from the 214 student apartments, manufacturing kitchen and restaurant construction project need to be sorted at the construction site. It also required the contractor to draw up a waste management plan for the site, which must contain information on what waste will be generated at different stages on the site. In this case, at different stages of work the site had waste containers for waste from different work phases at the right time. A waste manager was appointed for the construction site to ensure that a waste management plan is implemented at the site.

Joensuun Elli required that there should be sorting of biowaste, insulation wool, plasterboard, stone material, glass, metal, plastic, cardboard/paperboard, combustible waste/energy waste, treated and clean wood, PVC plastic and hazardous waste (solid paints, aerosols and pressure packaging); sorting of bitumen and façade sheets had also been agreed on.

The construction project generated 884 tonnes of waste, of which the recycling rate was 82.6%, to energy recovery ended up 14.3% and 3% was disposed of.


Sorting guide for construction waste

As part of the Circwaste project, a sorting guide for small builders’ construction waste aimed at households and small businesses has been produced. The Kontiosuo waste centre offers a two-compartment interchangeable container for renovations of a housing company or detached house, for example, as well as trailers for rent. The guide contains sorting instructions for various waste types such as asbestos, insulation wool and windows. Puhas Oy receives construction waste at various waste stations and waste centres. The guide is specifically targeted at the North Karelia region, but it can also be applied elsewhere in Finland.


Circular Economy in Construction Sector >>> 


SYKE (2021). Rakentamisen toimialan jätteet [excel-tiedosto]. Tiedosto saatavilla: Valtakunnallisen jätesuunnitelman seuranta. Haettu 26.11.2021 osoitteesta: < > Puhas Oy (n.d.). Rakentajan lajitteluopas.

Rakennusjäte kiertämään – uusi opas pienrakentajille (2019). Uutinen haettu 16.11.2021 osoitteesta:

Heikura, Aino (2020). Rakennustyömaan jätteiden lajittelun vaatimukset osaksi kilpailutusta. Haettu 16.11.2021 osoitteesta: < >

Circwaste-hankkeen linkkejä rakennus- ja purkujätteisiin liittyen: Materiaalit kiertoon > Tehoa rakennus- ja purkujätteen kierrätykseen (selaa sivun alareunaan)

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