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“UK waste data needs improving” – say BRE specialists

Specialists in construction and demolition (C&D) waste at BRE, have recently completed a study to assess the shape of information regarding C&D waste in the UK. This is part of the work the BRE Trust is doing to help in building a better world together.

Below is a summary of this study to give you a flavour of the findings, and the full study is available by contacting the SmartWaste team at BRE.

A study of UK construction and demolition waste data

Data on C&D waste is used in different ways by various stakeholders – from setting targets for individual projects, to providing information to report against EU targets. A recent report by the RWM Ambassadors has highlighted the significant gaps and weaknesses in C&D waste data.

This BRE study aims to help improve the C&D waste data used by DEFRA to report against EU targets.

Currently, waste data reports have been developed over several years by DEFRA, yet there are some areas based on assumptions that may be outdated or where better data may now be available.

Two main areas for reporting against European targets were highlighted, and their various sources of data assessed.

  1. Recycled aggregate and internally recycled materials estimates

To calculate the amount of C&D waste produced, information from the Environment Agency about waste managed at treatment facilities is used.

Photo of rubbleHowever, this does not include recycled aggregate or soils produced and dealt with on site (known as ‘under an exemption’). This is estimated from the Minerals Products Association (MPA) data from 2008 which is adjusted annually based on construction industry value. This review aimed to supplement this useful information with additional, more recent data.

The table below shows various sources of information – highlighting benefits and issues associated with each.


Data Source Information Data Benefits Issues
Mineral Products Association Estimate of amount of recycled aggregate from C&D activities 45.3 Million tonnes of recycled aggregate produced in 2012 in UK. Estimated that 38.9 Million tonnes for England Ongoing data so would allow for comparison with previous years

Based on data from 2008 and updated based on construction output

Source of information used to estimate construction output no clear

UEPG (European Aggregates Associate) Estimate of amount of recycled aggregate produced 44 Million tonnes of recycled aggregate produced in UK in 2012 Not additional data as based on MPA data
National Federation of Demolition Contractors Estimate of percentage of inert demolition waste that is reused or recycled onsite 54.4% of inert demolition waste produced is reused or recycled onsite in UK

Produced annually

Based on member information

For demolition only

Breakdown for England not currently available

SmartWaste (related to aggregates) Estimate of the percentage of inert CD&E waste that is reused or recycled onsite 32.5% of inert CD&E waste is reused or recycled onsite

Can be broken down into construction, demolition and excavation phases

Can be updated regularly

Based on SmartWaste members waste arisings data

Data limited to users of SmartWaste

Some companies who use SmartWaste do not record onsite reuse of materials

SmartWaste (related to soils) Estimate of the percentage of soil produced that is reused or recycled onsite 50.8% of soils produced are reused or recycled onsite

Can be broken down into construction, demolition and excavation phases

Can be updated regularly

Based on SmartWaste members waste arisings data

Some companies do not record onsite reuse of materials


  1. Currently there is no way to know the breakdown of materials in C&D waste

As with your home recycling, when mixed waste goes through a sorting facility, many different types of waste from different sources are all combined (your glass, wood and plastics go in together). Once this mixed waste is sorted, it is not known how much of the segregated materials comes from each person/source.

Photo of skipIn the construction industry, knowing the proportions and quantities of individual materials in mixed waste can help both individual companies and the sector as a whole to identify issues and set targets.

Various data sources were reviewed around this issue, showing a significant difference in breakdowns produced from each.

In particular, the WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme) data suggests there are very low proportions of metal, timber, plastic and glass; whereas company specific data (from a review of a variety of organisations’ CSR reporting) indicates much higher proportions of these materials.

Table for Buzz article

September RWM discussion panel

The issue of availability and weaknesses of C&D data was recently discussed at RWM, where Stuart Blofeld from SmartWaste took part in a panel discussion.

The main points from this session were that the construction sector are quite good at collecting data but that more use could be made of this data to effect real change on construction and demolition sites.

Leading on from this, ongoing discussions with various stakeholders (construction professionals, waste management professionals and government agencies), should continue to ensure progress is made in collecting reliable, useful data.

Ongoing analysis of SmartWaste data should help to provide information for industry and individual companies, helping set targets for waste reduction and improved materials management.

How can we improve this situation for companies and the industry?

  1. Data from NFDC and SmartWaste could be used alongside MPA information to provide improved estimates of internally recycled materials – resulting in a better understanding of how these materials are managed, enabling government and key construction stakeholders to develop and improve on this.
  2. The data contained within SmartWaste could be used alongside more information from individual companies to provide an estimate of material breakdowns – this will help construction companies identify materials to target for waste reduction.




Contact the SmartWaste team for a free copy of the full publication to understand this in more depth.

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