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What happens when you recycle your building waste?

The construction industry uses large quantities of many different types of material – many of which wouldn’t normally present in standard domestic or commercial recycling.

A lot of these are considered “virgin” materials – materials that haven’t been recycled before – although increasing levels of construction materials are already manufactured from recycled stock. Regardless, there are many ways that the waste building projects leave behind can be recycled, and what happens will vary dependent on the material.

Recycling bricks, blocks and mortar

Precast concrete, clay bricks, stone blocks and aerated blocks typically have a lifespan of over 200 years. These can easily be reclaimed and reused in other building projects. Some businesses specialise in the buying and selling of reclaimed or unused bricks, allowing for businesses or individuals to recoup a small sum from their construction project.

Recycling glass from construction projects

The main causes of glass waste during construction are breakages during installation, damage during storage/transit or the over-ordering of materials. Glass waste produced on a construction site can be recycled by crushing, optical sorting, washing and drying, and air classification. Recycled glass can then be used in the manufacturing of insulation, sports turf, aggregates, decorative materials and more.

Recycling wood from a building site

Most timber types can be recycled. Pallets, storage crates, window frames, doorframes, floorboards, fencing and panels are commonly leftover after construction and can be reclaimed to create other wood materials like laminate flooring, or used to manufacture wood chips and biofuel.

Recycling leftover tiles

Construction firms estimate that as many as 8-10% of wall and floor tiles are either damaged or unused on domestic construction projects. Depending on the recycling processes used, offcuts and broken tiles can be repurposed as aggregate, reclaimed materials or fibre acoustic ceiling insulation.

Plasterboard recycling

It’s relatively easy to recycle plasterboard. Many plaster manufacturers offer take-back schemes for offcuts, where unused pieces can be made into new plasterboard, cement, or used to make bathroom furniture mouldings.

This is great for construction projects, although there are some limitations on older plasterboard from demolition and refurb jobs. This is because old plasterboard may be contaminated with other materials which is harder to separate.

Overall, it makes sense to recycle building waste – it’s good for the environment, helps to repurpose offcuts and unwanted materials, and in some cases, it can even help you make a little bit of money.