5 Types of Waste Management 

In a world where “one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure”, the construction industry is doing its part and undergoing a transformative journey toward a greener future. Here’s how.

The potential to slash 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from material extraction and manufacturing processes within the European Union lies in the maximization of material efficiency.

One of the keys to addressing this maximization is a well-crafted waste management approach that has become the linchpin for enhancing material efficiency and bolstering the sustainability of construction projects.

Let’s delve into the top types of waste management that are changing the built ecosystem and guiding it toward a more sustainable path.

What is Waste Management?

Waste management is a streamlined process that involves the disposal, reduction, reuse, and prevention of waste.

This concept is intricately connected to circular economy models, which pave the way forward in the construction sector. These models represent a new paradigm of production and consumption that ensures sustainable growth over time. Their purpose is to mitigate waste management challenges faced by communities, governments, and builders across the construction value chain.

Implementing effective waste management in construction is essential for:

  • Legal compliance
  • Safeguarding the health and safety of workers
  • Achieving cost savings
  • Enhancing reputation
  • Reducing environmental impact.

Methods of Waste Management

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has developed a new waste management hierarchy that prioritizes resources over waste. This tool categorizes waste management methods in levels based on their environmental impact:

  1. First level – Reduce: Minimizing the amount needed from the beginning to lower overall waste generation.
  1. Second level – Reuse: Utilizing resources repeatedly to extend their lifespan and reduce the need for new material production.
  1. Third level – Recycle: Transforming waste into new products to promote the circular use of materials.
  1. Fourth level – Recovery: Extracting energy from waste through various processes, contributing to sustainable resource management.
  1. Fifth level – Landfill: Safely disposing of waste in designated areas to minimize environmental impact.

Here are 5 types of waste management methods, aligned with the ZWE hierarchy, that are not just changing how we manage waste, but redefining the way we build.

Reduce – New and Natural Raw Materials

The reduction of waste in the built environment can be achieved through better optimization of materials during the design and planning phases. This involves analyzing and selecting materials carefully to make material consumption more efficient in the construction phase without creating unnecessary excess.

At this level, technologies such as the material passport come into play. This tool registers all necessary information about the materials used to construct a building and measures its impact on the four values of circular construction: health, cyclability, residual value, and productivity. Among its main benefits are waste prevention and the reduction of raw material extraction.

For example, Concular, one of the startups featured on the Cleantech Construction Map 2023, enables the reuse of construction materials with software that facilitates the digitalization of resources through material passports, thereby reducing global CO2 emissions by 14%.

Reuse – Converting Waste

Converting waste into compost is an avant grade approach to handling organic waste. Compost, which is simply decomposed organic material, serves as a natural fertilizer, enriching and enhancing soil quality for use in construction, but also agriculture and gardening.

This recycling technique is a significant advancement in addressing the global waste volume and challenges related to resource scarcity. It promotes the transition to a circular system where industrial residues are reintegrated into the ecosystem, returning essential nutrients to the soil.

Transforming waste into compost stands out as a prime opportunity within the circular economy framework for construction. It introduces innovative processes that redefine waste as a valuable and sustainable approach to building practices.

Recycle – Revived Materials

Recycling plays a pivotal role in reducing the built environment’s environmental degradation, addressing concerns at both the start-of-life and end-of-life of buildings. Materials such as plastics, paper, glass and organic matter can be recycled, reused, giving materials a new life.

The most widely consumed material in the world after water is concrete, which has traditionally had a high CO2 footprint. However, Recycled concrete involves repurposing concrete from demolished structures for use in new construction or renovation projects. This process can occur either at a quarry or on-site, and results in a product known as recycled concrete aggregate (RCA). This RCA serves as a base material for producing new concrete products. Recycling is helping concrete become a greener building material, contributing to the overall decarbonization of the industry.

Recovery – Transforming Waste into Energy

At the forefront of waste management innovation is the concept of transforming waste into energy. Waste to energy processes convert waste into steam or electricity as a power source for energy-intensive industrial processes. Much like coal, oil, or natural gas burned in boilers to generate electricity, waste serves as an alternative fuel source for power generation.

Cemex has embraced this waste management strategy by investing in WtEnergy, a cleantech startup that developed an innovative process to convert solid waste into a lower-carbon energy solution for industrial purposes. Cemex implemented this technology at its Alicante cement plant in Spain, receiving a grant from the European Union for their project with the startup, hailed as ‘the first of its kind’ for the cement industry.

Landfill – Sanitary Landfills

For materials that are not suitable for recycling or composting, sanitary landfills act as a last resort option for responsible waste management. A sanitary landfill is a place for the disposal of various waste materials, including household garbage, construction debris, and industrial waste. These landfills are strategically located and designed to minimize environmental impact and protect public health.

In this solution, waste is methodically spread in thin layers. As the layers accumulate, compaction is applied to reduce volume, creating additional space for more waste.

Landfills play a crucial role in waste systems, providing a controlled environment for the proper disposal of solid waste. This is particularly essential in industries like construction, where effective waste management is integral to sustainable practices.

Cemex Ventures Leads the Charge in Transformative Waste Management Practices

Cemex Ventures is committed to helping drive the revolution of the construction industry and is actively seeking innovations to drive sustainability and greener construction methods into the industry.

Cemex, through its initiative Regenera, led by circular economy specialists, aims to extend the life cycle of products and materials by transforming them into valuable assets.

Moreover, it offers a comprehensive suite of customized services, covering the reception, management, recycling, and coprocessing of waste. By aiding partners in optimizing their waste streams, Regenera ensures efficient waste reutilization and proper waste disposal.

Not only does this approach contribute to the preservation of natural resources, it also significantly reduces Cemex’s carbon footprint, aligning with its 2030 goals and 2050 objective of becoming a net-zero CO2 company.

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