CDW-recycling - Innovative solution for the separation of construction and demolition waste

LIFE11 ENV/FR/000752

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Contact details:

Contact person: Stéphane GRAILLE
Tel: +33 4 93 29 99 31
Email: stephane.graille@veolia.com

Project description:


Construction and demolition waste (CDW) is one of the heaviest and most voluminous of all waste types. In some Member States, much of the unrecovered waste is disposed of in landfills, creating environmental damage through air, water and soil pollution. If not separated at source, CDW may also contain small amounts of hazardous waste, which pose particular environmental risks and hamper recycling. CDW recovery rates are currently only 30-35%, but should have at least doubled by 2020 if the targets of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) are to be achieved. There is great potential for recycling and reusing CDW materials since some components have high resource value. However, present systems require the waste to be sorted manually, which is only effective for large particles. The small and medium-sized particles remain a mixture of materials and must be landfilled. Wet processes exist for the separation of such materials, but these generate sludge polluted with fibres and sulphates which requires expensive water treatment. The effectiveness of these processes is also limited because they fail to separate different products if their densities are too similar - the processes do not differentiate between plaster, wood and plastics. Solutions using air - aeraulic - systems also exist, but present the same problems as wet processes and result in high energy consumption.


The CDW-recycling project's main objective was to improve the CDW sorting process, by establishing a pilot plant capable of sorting smaller pieces at industrial scale and separating non-inert waste from inert waste. It aimed to demonstrate the possibility of recovering large quantities of CDW and with less of an environmental impact than using traditional management techniques. First, the CDW-recycling project planned to design and set up sorting processes for CDW fractions of 8-30 mm and 30-80 mm, adapting the optical and blowing technologies of project partner Pellenc Selective Technologies for industrial use. It then aimed to determine the optimal specifications during pilot testing, followed by integration of the new process into the waste sorting systems at the beneficiary SEAs site in Nice-Saint Isidore.


Two optical sorting machines were installed at SEA's centre in Nice St-Isidore which successfully sorted large and small waste fractions of CDW. They were able to detect the different waste fractions in CDW and separate non-inert waste from plaster and fibrous waste (e.g. plastic, wood). The CDW-recycling project showed that 85% of fibrous waste can be extracted from aggregates entering the sorting site. This type of waste can then be used as an alternative fuel for energy production which leads to lower consumption of fossil fuels, reduced CO2 emissions and less landfilling. The sorted inert waste was pure enough to be sent to non-inert waste landfill sites. However, to be used as a raw material for concrete production or as a road sub-base, further treatment would be needed. The plaster coming out of the sorting process was not pure enough for use as a raw material for the plaster industry. But the ability to extract the plaster from inert waste was encouraging. In the short term, the beneficiaries concluded that installing optical sorting units to extract plaster from inert waste is not economically viable, as the current regulatory constraints are not strict enough to warrant this. In the medium to long term, however, they expect the project to be replicated in other EU countries, beginning with those which apply the strictest rules on landfilling of waste. Under existing legislation, inert waste can be sent to sites for inert landfill even if it contains some non-inert waste (e.g. plaster and fibrous waste) without being sorted beforehand. In future this flexibility will probably disappear, meaning that inert waste with non-inert content will have to go to landfill sites for non-inert waste which are 10 times more expensive than those for inert waste (e.g. 10/tonne of waste for inert landfill, compared to 100/tonne for non-inert landfill). Under these conditions, investment in optical sorting machines to purify the inert fractions is likely to become economically viable. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Waste - Construction and demolition waste


building waste‚  waste recycling

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 75/442/EEC -"Waste framework directive" (15.07.1975)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Type of organisation Large enterprise
Description Sud-Est Assainissement (SEA) is a private sanitation company based in Cagnes-sur-Mer, south-east France. Part of the international Veolia environmental services group, its services include urban cleaning and management of wastes, including from industry and hospitals.
Partners Pellenc Selective Technologies, France Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Matériaux, France


Project reference LIFE11 ENV/FR/000752
Duration 03-SEP-2012 to 02-OCT -2015
Total budget 2,871,099.00 €
EU contribution 1,043,849.00 €
Project location Provence-Alpes-Côte d' Azur(France)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (French version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (French version)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version