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Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW)

Construction and demolition waste (CDW) is one of the heaviest and most voluminous waste streams generated in the EU. It accounts for approximately 25% - 30% of all waste generated in the EU and consists of numerous materials, including concrete, bricks, gypsum, wood, glass, metals, plastic, solvents, asbestos and excavated soil, many of which can be recycled.

CDW arises from activities such as the construction of buildings and civil infrastructure, total or partial demolition of buildings and civil infrastructure, road planning and maintenance. Different definitions are applied throughout the EU, which makes cross-country comparisons cumbersome. In some countries even materials from land levelling are regarded as construction and demolition waste.

CDW has been identified as a priority waste stream by the European Union. There is a high potential for recycling and re-use of CDW, since some of its components have a high resource value. In particular, there is a re-use market for aggregates derived from CDW waste in roads, drainage and other construction projects. Technology for the separation and recovery of construction and demolition waste is well established, readily accessible and in general inexpensive.

One of the objectives of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) is to provide a framework for moving towards a European recycling society with a high level of resource efficiency. In particular, Article 11.2 stipulates that "Member States shall take the necessary measures designed to achieve that by 2020 a minimum of 70% (by weight) of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste excluding naturally occurring material defined in category 17 05 04 in the List of Wastes shall be prepared for re-use, recycled or undergo other material recovery" (including backfilling operations using waste to substitute other materials).

Despite its potential, the level of recycling and material recovery of CDW varies greatly (between less than 10% and over 90%) across the Union. If not separated at source, CDW can contain small amounts of hazardous wastes, the mixture of which can pose particular risks to the environment and can hamper recycling.

Study on Resource Efficient Use of Mixed Wastes

A specific study on CDW, ‘Resource Efficient Use of Mixed Waste’, is being conducted on behalf of the European Commission. The study started in January 2015 and will run until August 2016. The aim is to investigate the current CDW management situation in EU Member States, identifying obstacles to recycling and potential deficiencies that could lead to non-compliance with EU waste legislation. Good practices in terms of creating conditions for increasing CDW recycling and for improving the quality of recycling and recovery will be identified and a set of recommendations to address potential barriers will be formulated. In parallel, success stories of efficient CDW management will be showcased in 6 case studies, illustrating key elements for success, as well as the necessary preconditions. Finally, the reliability of official CDW statistics will be assessed, identifying the sources of inaccuracy and proposing measures for their improvement. The main findings of the study were discussed at a seminar in Brussels on 25 May 2016.


Finished Studies

Management of CDW in the EU - requirements resulting from the Waste Framework Directive and assessment of the situation in the medium term (2011)

The objectives of the study were:

  1. to specify the requirements resulting from the EU waste legislation regarding CDW by establishing operational definitions of some crucial concepts and
  2. to perform a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the status quo of CDW and establish a scenario for 2014.


Technical guide to Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Moreover, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has issued a "Technical guide to Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for waste experts and LCA practitioners" aimed at supporting environmentally sound decisions and complementing the waste hierarchy. The guide focuses on the most relevant technical aspects that need to be considered when applying LCT and LCA to the waste management sector. The guide builds on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards 14040 and 14044 for LCA and the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook.