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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 hazardous waste, the mixture of which can pose particular risks to the environment and can hamper recycling.

New! -> EU Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol

The Commission is introducing the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol (non-binding guidelines) to help practitioners, public authorities, certification bodies and clients of recycled materials to handle properly this waste stream. By promoting management of CDW in line with the waste hierarchy (with a priority for prevention and reuse as higher ranking options than recycling and recovery), it shall contribute to resource efficiency. The Protocol is intended to raise awareness about legal requirements, as well as state-of-the-art techniques. To contribute to its use, the Protocol has been translated into several EU languages.

New! -> EU Guidelines for audits before demolition of building

An assessment of constructions prior to their demolition or renovation is essential to ensure that valuable materials on one hand and hazardous substances on the other hand are identified in advance. This shall allow for an appropriate planning and a safe and efficient implementation of the renovation or demolition works, where safety and health of workers is ensured and the different fractions of CDW properly managed..

New! -> Level(s): a common framework to assess the environmental performance of buildings

Level(s) is a voluntary reporting framework to improve the sustainability of buildings. Using existing standards, Level(s) provides a common EU approach to the assessment of environmental performance in the built environment.

Level(s) provides an easy starting point to introduce sustainability into your work. Within the Level(s) framework, each indicator is designed to link the individual building’s impact with the priorities for sustainability at the European level. This focuses the Level(s) user on a manageable number of essential concepts and indicators at building level that contribute to achieving EU and Member State environmental policy goals.


Development and implementation of initiatives fostering investment and innovation in construction and demolition waste recycling infrastructure

The main objectives of the study were (i) to identify, list and analyse existing business models in the field of CDW recycling within selected EU countries and non-EU countries and (ii) to develop and elaborate a set of five business cases that are exemplary in their nature for the planning and design of new CDW recycling facilities.

Study on Resource Efficient Use of Mixed Wastes

A specific study on CDW, ‘Resource Efficient Use of Mixed Waste’, was conducted on behalf of the European Commission to analyze 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 were identified and a set of recommendations to address potential barriers formulated. Success stories of efficient CDW management were showcased in 6 case studies, illustrating key elements for success, as well as the necessary preconditions. Finally, the reliability of official CDW statistics was 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.

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.