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What Are The Common Types Of Construction Waste

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  • 19-10-2021
What Are The Common Types Of Construction Waste

What are common types of construction waste? We look at the typical waste that needs to be disposed of from a construction site.

What are common types of construction waste?

No matter how well oiled a particular construction or demolition site may be, large amounts of waste will still be produced. Any demolition or construction job will require mass moving of materials, leading to a quick build-up of different waste types. 

Across the UK, over 200 million tonnes of waste materials are produced every year, and a staggering 62% of that is construction waste.

Thankfully, a large percentage of that is non-hazardous and can be recycled much more easily. As a construction site or commercial operation, the duty of care to have a safe and environmentally friendly waste disposal and recycling system lies with you. 

Keep reading to find out the most common types of construction and demolition waste and how they can be reduced. 


What Are Common Types Of Construction Waste?

This is the most common and widely spread type of construction waste, with concrete making up over 10 billion tonnes of global waste.

Concrete bricks can prove cheaper to produce and easier to lay and construct, so many buildings across the UK are made from this material.

As more modernised buildings are being built, these buildings are being torn down. The question of what should be done with the concrete remains.

A popular option and viable answer to this is crushed concrete. Typically, crushed reinforced concrete is made from sand and gravel, but a global shortage of sand puts this at risk. Sand, unaware to many, is the world's second most important resource and makes up a large portion of buildings, roads, and even smartphone screens.

Since desert sand is useless to us, and we have an overwhelming amount of concrete to use, developers and construction workers have to get creative.

Transporting concrete off your construction site will require waste transfer documents to be held, but this means that the concrete can be crushed and ground down into something more manageable; reinforced crushed concrete. This aggregate of utilising construction site waste is a viable option for best recycling the tonnes of wastage. 

If a brick has remained structurally sound after removal, it can be reused in future projects as is. However, as bricks break down, the waste will include the plaster and mortar within.

However, certain companies can use this, as bricks can be crushed and reused as filler material. The aggregate building materials accumulated by crushing and blending the bricks can be used and sold to other manufacturers and companies. 

Sometimes this isn't even needed, as older and broken bricks are becoming more valuable and wanted. The type of brick can also affect any potential resale value, as face brick has higher durability than the common brick.

This makes it more appealing. The use of such bricks in landscaping or garden decoration has become more popular or historical restoration sites. 

Another large and common component found on construction sites is ceramic and tiles. Whether the construction company had additional unused materials or is a result of demolition debris, there is still something to be done other than throwing them away.

Any wall or floor tiles of any material, be it glass, slate, or marble, can be recycled and reused. The same goes for any panelboard or fibreboard that has been salvaged from the site.

Of course, any tiles in good condition can be reused or used in decorative areas. If you want to recycle any fibreboard, there are three main processes for doing so.

Fibresolve will utilise a vacuum and pressurised steam at hot temperatures, whereas a Microrelease can use microwaves to separate fibres from the resin. Composting is another standard option.

To best manage your construction site, it's best to educate on handling materials such as tiles and ceramics when removing them to ensure the best recycling results can be met. Typically, materials aren't treated with care when a job is done quickly, and workers try to meet a quota. 

On larger construction sites and demolition projects, wood waste will be widespread. Roofing beams, floorboards, supports, plasterboard, and many other structural elements of a house or property are made from wood, and these can all be reclaimed and recycled.

Other than wood shavings or scrap, there is use for almost any sized piece of wood. They must be denailed and cleaned before resizing and repurposing, but entire trades and companies pride themselves in producing furniture and creating products using this wood.

Upcycling businesses can create furniture or give life to old products with reclaimed wood, or it can be used to liquid fuel or biofuel.

Once again, this all comes down to the practice that you're putting in place at your construction site. If proper care is given to the wood being stripped from a property, more can be salvaged and saved from landfill sites.

Insulation materials have to be handled correctly on jobs where a property is being demolished in its entirety. The insulation can contain asbestos, which can prove lethal to those around it.

Asbestos can travel through airborne particles, which, if inhaled, can lead to construction workers contracting a lung disease. In this instance, the insulation materials can't be recycled and need to be disposed of before harming people or the environment.

Other forms of insulation material that can arise during construction are:

- Fibreglass
- Foams
- Natural Fibres
- Perlite
- Vermiculite
- Cellulose
- Polystyrene

And more, so it's best to understand what risks each material offer and how to best deal with them, either recycling or disposing of them. 

Generally speaking, glass is easily recyclable and can be done in large quantities too. The same goes for construction sites, as a considerable amount is produced from windows, structural glass, computers, television screens, etc.

These can either be reused or recycled into other products. Of course, recovered glass can also be used as aggregates for concrete or perhaps become decorative material. 

Plastic waste is another large percentage of the total waste brought about by a construction site and can come from various places. Piping, window components, any plastic from the roof and walls, etc., all quickly collect when demolition or construction occurs.

Thankfully, plastic is, for the most part recyclable, and reusable when in good condition. A construction company has the duty of care to either reuse plastic materials or move them off-site and to a recycling plant where they can be melted into other products for future use. 

Any ferrous metal, that being metal with some iron within its composition, can have a higher resale value even in damaged conditions.

This can be produced by older pipes and could be carbon steel, stainless steel, or even cast iron.

There's hardly any by-product during the recycling of a ferrous metal, meaning that there's little excuse for a construction site not to reuse or recycle this type of metal.

They can be long-lasting and resilient against the elements, so sometimes they can be reused in their current state. Iron and steel will always be wanted, so it's worth understanding their reuse and recycling options. 

The other type of metal is called nonferrous and refers to any metal that isn't iron or contains iron. These can also be recycled with little by-products or just sold on in their current condition.

Some worn pipes and metalwork, such as copper, zinc, or aluminium, can be highly requested and used for decorative or restorative purposes. Even some electrical wiring can be reused and recycled, with the metals within being useful. This, of course, requires a professional to strip and clean the metal and can't be thrown out with other metal waste and recycling.

If a construction site can try not to have mixed metals and separate them before being repurposed, this can speed the process up. 

Most construction projects will involve the moving or destruction of stone and clay, leading to a large amount being thrown away. These materials can be recycled, though.

Stone and clay can be crushed and ground into an aggregate filler, essential for future construction. This small-grain by-product can be used as the foundation for some home projects such as driveways, also. 

Unfortunately, soil is a fairly useless resource. It's everywhere, and when digging commences at a construction site, there will be a lot of discarded soil.

It's sometimes possible to sell or donate the accumulated soil to another site that is filling a hole, not digging one, but this isn't always the case.

A large portion of soil ends up being thrown into landfill, for which companies will have to pay a fee.  

Much like soil, other natural resources will be dug up and removed during the excavation of a site. This can include any plants or shrubbery, tree stumps and branches, and in some cases, entire trees, hedges, or large plots of land.

A lot of this can be broken down into a form of mulch or compost, but some garden waste is easier to throw away, which needs to stop.

A surplus or excess of drywall is inevitable during a construction project, as it's used throughout most builds. There has been some debate as to the hazardous nature of the mercury within the wallboard, but it's generally agreed that there is no real risk.

For this reason, drywall can be recycled and reused, but typically any drywall is crushed and melted into smaller pieces. This can be used in soil conditioners and the like, which can aid in keeping acidic-alkaline levels within the soil. 

The shingles that make up most roofs have a component of asphalt within them, and this can be reused.

If the tiles cannot be used again because they're too damaged, then the asphalt can be extracted from the shingles and used in pavements and future construction projects. 

Construction and demolition sites produce a lot of hazardous waste every year, and these need to be handled with care. They are hazardous because they pose a risk to those working with them or damage the environment if not correctly disposed of.

Commonly this will be asbestos-containing materials, aerosol cans, plasterboard, paint, solvents, but it can also be any adhesives, paint thinners and strippers, varnish remover, and thermostats that contain mercury. Fluorescent bulbs can also be hazardous but can offer reuse for some projects if handled correctly.

If you're on a construction site, you have rules and regulations you should be following when disposing of materials containing hazardous substances. If not, you can be fined. 

What happens to construction waste?

With the amount of constructions sites operating currently, they make up a large portion of the total waste we produce every year. It's for this reason that contractors and workers need to have a well-thought-out plan.

Typically, a skip or a variety of skips will be present on any given site. This way, the varying materials can be separated and then taken to the corresponding facility. Metal, wood, glass, and plastic are the most common materials found on a site. Bigger items, such as furniture or garden items, can either be sold or donated to a charity.

The larger the site and the job, the more planning will be needed. Demolition of a property can lead to many materials being thrown away, which is why education on how to recycle best and reuse materials is incredibly beneficial.

A good construction waste management plan can make a worksite much more environmentally friendly and lead to more materials being recycled.

typical waste that needs to be disposed of from a construction site

The handling of hazardous materials needs planning also, especially if you know you're working on a site that has a large amount of asbestos, for example. If a construction worker is around this for too long, they can contract lung disease. 

construction sites waste


As you can see, many types of waste are produced by dredging materials or demolishing a property. There are different types of construction sites, but they can have a lot of waste generated. 

Get in touch today if you have any construction waste that needs collecting and disposed of correctly in Maidstone and Kent. Our experience and professionalism can help alleviate any stress or concerns you have concerning wastage.