Construction & Demolition Waste Statistics for Ireland

EPA waste data release 17 Nov. 2021. Latest reference year 2019.

Key trends

  • The quantity of C&D waste generated and collected in Ireland increased to 8.8 million tonnes in 2019. This represents a significant increase of 2.6 million tonnes on the quantity of C&D waste generated in 2018 (6.2 million tonnes) and corresponds with a significant increase in construction activity nationally in 2019. The increase was driven mainly by an extra 2.7 million tonnes of soil and stones, which totalled 7.5 million tonnes in 2019.
  • Soil and stones accounted for 85 per cent of C&D waste generated and collected in 2019 (up from 77 per cent in 2017), while the next largest C&D waste types in 2019 were concrete, brick, tile and gypsum waste (seven per cent) and mixed C&D waste (four per cent).
  • The vast majority (96 per cent) of C&D waste underwent final treatment in Ireland in 2019; only four per cent was exported abroad for final treatment.
  • Most of the C&D waste collected in Ireland in 2019 was backfilled (82 per cent), while 10 per cent went for disposal and only seven per cent was recycled. The dominance of backfilling as a treatment operation reflects the large proportion of soil and stones in C&D waste. Recycling was the main treatment operation for metals (100%) and waste bituminous mixtures (64%). It is notable that only 39% of segregated wood, glass and plastic waste was recycled in 2019 while 54% went for energy recovery.
  • Under the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), Member States must achieve 70 per cent of material recovery of non-hazardous, non-soil and stone C&D waste by 2020. Ireland achieved 84 per cent material recovery of such waste in 2019, and therefore surpassed the 2020 target. This represents an improvement on the recovery rate of 71 per cent achieved in 2016 and 77 per cent achieved in 2018.
  • Prevention and improved recycling of C&D waste could be achieved by employing best practice circular construction activities, such as designing out waste, enhanced segregation of C&D materials into individual material streams and by maximising the use of resources, in line with the EPA’s revised Best Practice Guidelines for the Preparation of Resource Management Plans for Construction & Demolition Projects due to be published in November 2021.

Generation

The C&D sector in Ireland generated an estimated 8.8 million tonnes of waste in 2019 (based on data reported by authorised waste collectors and local authorities). This represents a significant increase of 2.6 million tonnes on the 6.2 million tonnes of C&D waste generated in 2018. Figure 1 illustrates that the annual quantity of C&D waste generated in Ireland has increased considerably since 2014, corresponding with a steady increase in the level of construction activity nationally. The increase in 2019 was driven mainly by an extra 2.7 million tonnes of soil and stones, which totalled 7.5 million tonnes in 2019.

 

2020

Figure 1. Quantity of construction waste managed in Ireland, compared with CSO construction index (Source: EPA, NWCPO and CSO).

 

Composition of C&D waste

C&D waste is made up of many different materials and the separation of these materials, either at C&D sites or at waste facilities, is the necessary first step to enable their recycling. Soil and stones (and similar material) made up the vast majority (85 per cent) of C&D waste collected in 2019, dwarfing the contribution of other material types (Figure 2 and Table 1). The next largest C&D waste types generated in 2019 were concrete, brick, tile and gypsum waste (seven per cent) and mixed C&D waste (four per cent). Only 2.5 per cent of C&D waste was collected separately as single material streams (wood, glass, plastic or metal).

Note 1: As outlined in our Hazardous Waste section, the quantity of hazardous contaminated soil generated in Ireland in 2019 amounted to 90,595 tonnes.

  • Table 1. C&D waste composition, 2019

    Open in Excel: C&D Table 1. 2019 Multiyear (XLS 12KB)

Treatment of C&D waste

The vast majority (96 per cent) of C&D waste underwent final treatment in Ireland in 2019 and only four per cent (359,812 tonnes) was exported abroad for final treatment. Soil and stone material and waste metals dominated C&D waste exports.

Most of the C&D waste collected in Ireland was recovered by backfilling (82%), while 10% went for disposal and only 7% was recycled (Figure 3).

Figure 4 and Table 2 show the final treatment operations carried out on different C&D waste streams in 2019 (Note [1]). It is evident that the prominence of backfilling as a final treatment operation reflects the high tonnages of waste soil and stones, concrete bricks and tiles, and mixed C&D waste managed. Backfilling 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; and where waste is a substitute for non-waste materials. Backfill sites include worked out quarries that are in the process of being restored or sites where soil and stone is imported to raise natural ground levels. In 2020 the EPA published Guidance on Waste Acceptance Criteria at Authorised Soil Recovery Facilities.

Disposal was mainly used for C&D waste treatment residues and a smaller share of mixed C&D waste and soil and stones. Recycling was the main treatment operation for metals (100%) and waste bituminous mixtures (64%). It is notable that only 39% of segregated wood, glass and plastic waste was recycled in 2019 while 54% went for energy recovery. Recycling rates for C&D waste could be improved by ehnaced segregation of C&D waste into individual material streams, either at source or at waste processing facilities.

  • Table 2. C&D Waste Treatment, 2019

    Open in Excel: C&D Table 2. 2019 (multiyear) (XLS 12KB)

C&D by-product notifications

Preventing waste and promoting re-use 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 activation of the circular economy in this sector could see millions of tonnes of resources being beneficially reclaimed every year.

 

Article 27 of the European Communities (Waste Directive) Regulations, 2011 allows an economic operator to decide, under certain circumstances, that a material is a by-product and not a waste. This provision is often invoked in connection with construction and demolition material. It allows materials to be used elsewhere in construction projects as a by-product and not discarded as a waste. Decisions made by economic operators under Article 27 must be notified to the EPA. The EPA may determine to agree with the economic operator’s decision, as notified; alternatively, after consultation with the notifier and the relevant local authority, the EPA may determine that the notified material is waste.

 

In 2019, the EPA received by-product notifications for 5,983,137 tonnes of soil and stone material. Notifications for 1,048,180 tonnes were withdrawn. The EPA determined that 2,773,930 tonnes of the soil and stone notified were by-product, as notified, and that 49,020 were waste (Figure 5). The estimated quantity of soil and stone material notified in 2019 for which no determination was made to date amounted to 2,112,007 tonnes. It is important to note that by-product notifications do not necessarily mean that any or all of the material was generated or indeed moved. Notifiers of by-product may not have proceeded with the activities related to the by-product notifications. However, if they did proceed, the materials would not have entered the waste management network or be included in the 2019 C&D waste statistics data presented here. Only material notified as by-product, determined to be waste and generated and moved as waste in 2019 is covered by the EPA’s 2019 C&D waste statistics.

 

C&D waste

About Our Waste Statistics

More information about how the EPA compiles and reports Official European Waste Statistics is available here.

 

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Note 1: 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 indicates 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 <1% difference overall between the tonnages of C&D waste collected and finally treated in 2019, providing a high level of confidence in the C&D waste statistics for 2019.