EPA waste data release 10 August 2023 Latest reference year 2021.
The C&D sector in Ireland generated an estimated 9 million tonnes of waste in 2021. This represents an increase of nearly 0.8 million tonnes (10% increase) on the 8.2 million tonnes in 2020 and is close to the 8.8 million tonnes of C&D waste generated in 2019.
Figure 1 illustrates that the annual quantity of C&D waste generated in Ireland increased considerably from 2014 to 2019, corresponding with a steady increase in the level of construction activity nationally1 represented by the Production in Building and Construction Index (PBCI).
Despite COVID enforced restrictions on the construction sector in 2021 C&D waste increased to 9 million tonnes while the PBCI decreased between 2020 and 2021. This divergence stems from lower value construction activities, such as the excavation of soil and stone, recommencing earlier post Covid restrictions, compared to higher value activities.
Figure 1. Quantity of construction waste managed in Ireland, compared with CSO construction index (Source: EPA, NWCPO and CSO).
Greater levels of C&D waste prevention can be achieved by employing best practice circular construction activities. This includes designing out waste, increase application of By-products Regulation 27 and maximising the use of resources specified for projects in line with the EPA’s revised Best Practice Guidelines for the Preparation of Resource Management Plans for Construction & Demolition Projects.
Table 1. Composition of C&D waste collected in Ireland in 2021
|C&D Waste Type||Tonnage||Per cent of total|
|Soils, stones & dredging spoil||7,696,287||85.1%|
|Concrete, brick, tile & gypsum||608,235||6.7%|
|Mixed C&D waste||362,380||4.0%|
|Segregated wood, glass & plastic||31,946||0.4%|
Open in Excel: C&D Table 1 2021 (XLS 15KB)Open in CSV : C&D Table 1 2021 (CSV 1KB)
Table 1 provides compositional details of C&D waste generated. C&D waste is a mix of many different materials and the separation of these materials, either at C&D sites or at waste facilities, is the necessary first step for recycling or other recovery of this waste.
Soil and stones (and similar material) made up the vast majority (85%) of C&D waste collected in 2021, dominating other material types. The next largest C&D waste types generated in 2021 were concrete, brick, tile and gypsum waste (7%) and mixed C&D waste (4%). Even though only 4% of C&D waste was collected separately as single material streams (wood, glass, plastic or metal), it is on a par with 2020.
The vast majority (96%) of C&D waste underwent final treatment in Ireland in 2021 and only 4% was exported abroad for final treatment.
Most C&D waste treated in Ireland was recovered by backfilling (85%), while 7% went for disposal and only 8% was recycled (Figure 2).
Figure 3 shows the final treatment operations carried out on different C&D waste fractions in 20211.
Backfilling2 is the most significant treatment of C&D waste. The prominence of backfilling as a final treatment operation reflects the high tonnages of waste soil and stones in the C&D waste stream.
Recycling was the main treatment operation for metals (100%), segregated wood, paper, glass and plastic (77%). Recycling rates for C&D waste can be improved by enhanced segregation of C&D waste into individual material streams, either at source or at waste processing facilities.
Disposal was mainly used for C&D waste treatment residues and a smaller share of mixed C&D waste and soil and stones. Table 2 provides details of the tonnages of the C&D waste treated.
Table 2. Final treatment operation by C&D waste stream in 2021
|Treatment type||Recycling (t)||Energy recovery (t)||Backfilling (t)||Disposal (t)||Total|
|Segregated wood, glass & plastic||50,348||13,918||743||407||65,417|
|Concrete, brick, tile & gypsum||262,685||1,244||299,725||16,568||580,223|
|Waste Bituminous mixtures||41,150||1,505||33,449||8,527||84,631|
|Mixed C&D waste||398||73||88,747||34,356||123,573|
|Waste soils, stones & dredging spoil||34||7,251,952||450,267||7,702,253|
|Waste treatment residues||51,892||9,323||39,122||114,580||214,917|
|1 Please note that no gypsum was backfilled or landfilled|
Open in Excel: C&D Table 2 2021 (XLS 13KB)Open in CSV : C&D Table 2 2021 (CSV 1KB)
Preventing waste and promoting reuse are integral to the circular economy. While this applies to all economic sectors, it is particularly relevant for the construction sector which handles large volumes of natural resources, such as soil and stone. Successful implementation of circular economy measures, such as by-product regulation3 in this sector could lead to millions of tonnes of resources beneficially reused every year.
In 2021, 123 by-product notifications were assessed by the EPA. Figure 4 shows the quantities associated with soil and stone by-product notifications from 2018 – 2021.
The EPA determined that 459,836 tonnes of the soil and stone notified were by-product and that 600 tonnes were waste (Figure 4). Notifications for 152,400 tonnes were withdrawn.
 EPA estimates of C&D waste collected and treated are based on different datasets. Waste collectors record waste as it enters the waste treatment network, whereas the final treatment data indicate what happens to waste at the end of its journey through the waste treatment network. This can lead to differences in waste classifications and quantities. Notwithstanding this, following EPA data validation, there was a 2.75% difference overall between the tonnages of C&D waste collected and finally treated in 2021, providing a high level of confidence in the C&D waste statistics for 2021.
 It refers to a recovery operation carried out at authorised facilities, where suitable waste is used for land improvement, for reclamation purposes in excavated areas, or for engineering purposes in landscaping. Soil recovery facilities are typically worked out quarries in the process of being restored or sites where soil and stone are imported to raise natural ground levels.
Please note that no gypsum was backfilled or landfilled.
 Regulation 27 (by-product) of the European Communities (Waste Directive) Regulations, 2011-2020 allows an economic operator to decide, under certain circumstances, that a material is a by-product and not a waste. It allows construction and demolition materials to be used elsewhere on development projects as a by-product and not discarded as a waste. Decisions made by economic operators under Regulation 27 must be notified to the EPA. The EPA may determine to agree with the economic operator’s by-product decision, where conditions of Regulation 27 are demonstrated to be fulfilled; alternatively, otherwise, the EPA may determine that the notified material is waste.