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Construction Waste Management


Managing construction waste is often a difficult process because its poor implementation could lead to unintended consequences for contractors, clients, and the public. This is why the evidence presented in this paper demonstrates that the failure to look for effective waste minimisation strategies is unsustainable. Therefore, effective elimination and waste management processes should form part of the design and planning processes of construction activities. Based on this understanding, this paper shows that the design stage is the most effective construction planning stage that could have the most positive effect on waste minimisation processes.

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In pursuit of sustainable development objectives, many countries are grappling with the problem of increased solid waste production and its negative impact on the environment. The construction industry is a leading producer of these solid wastes. Statistical and environmental reports in different parts of the world show that different countries contribute to the global solid waste production (Watson & Howarth 2012). Different national statistical and environmental reports reflect these findings. For example, the United States Environmental protection Agency says that the North American country produces more than 170 million tonnes of construction waste, annually (Gudigar & Devanand 2014). Comparatively, the European Union produces more than 2 billion tonnes of construction waste (Watson & Howarth 2012). European Statistics show that different countries have different contributions of construction waste. For example, Germany is the biggest producer of construction waste because it produces 59 million tonnes of construction waste per year (Al-Hajj & Hamani 2011). United Kingdom, France, and Italy follow it in the following order

Countries Construction waste (in millions of tonnes)
Germany 59
U.K 30
France 24
Italy 20
Spain 13
Netherlands 11
Belgium 7
Austria 5
Portugal 3
Denmark 3
Greece 2
Sweden 2
Finland 1
Ireland 1
Luxembourg 0

Hong Kong produces 3158 tonnes of construction waste per day (Al-Hajj & Hamani 2011). The UAE is a similarly big contributor of construction waste because 75% of its solid waste is from the construction industry (Al-Hajj & Hamani 2011). It is second to America in terms of waste share per capita. For example, the amount of construction waste dumped in Dubai landfill areas, in 2014, is more than 27 million tonnes (Assem & Karima 2011). This is a huge increase because the construction industry only accounted for 10 million tonnes of construction waste in 2006 (Assem & Karima 2011). These figures show an urgent need to manage construction waste.


Research Approach

This study used the mixed methods research approach. It was appropriate for this study because it accommodated the use of multiple ways of approaching one research problem. Indeed, as Creswell and Clark (2011) observe, the mixed methods research design allows a researcher to approach a research issue from any relevant angle. Where necessary, it also gives room for researchers to use previous research materials to investigate current research issues and allows them to use investigative perspectives that could help in answering their research questions (Teddlie & Tashakkori 2009).

These characteristics were useful to this paper because this study used information from previous research and included primary information from surveying a group of respondents who were knowledgeable about the research topic. The survey questionnaire included questions that had both qualitative and quantitative characteristics (see appendix one). Using the qualitative research approach, alone, would limit the type of questions asked in the survey by accommodating only those that were open-ended and vague (Bernard 2011). Alternatively, using the quantitative research approach, only, would limit the type of questions included in the survey to include only those questions that require measurable answers (Creswell & Clark 2011). Stated differently, using the quantitative research approach would require the questionnaire to include only those questions that relate to a metrical system (Creswell & Clark 2011). Based on the limitations of using both quantitative and qualitative research approaches, the mixed methods research approach emerged as the most appropriate research method because it accommodated both of these characteristics (Creswell & Clark 2011). Therefore, the main motivation of using the mixed method research approach was to overcome the limitations of using either the qualitative or quantitative research approaches.

Research Design

According to Bergman (2008), a research design refers to a simple set of procedures for collecting, interpreting, analysing, and reporting research information. Research designs are often important to researchers because they guide their choice of methods to use when undertaking a research (Creswell & Clark 2011). They also influence the logic used by researchers to formulate their findings (Creswell & Clark 2011). Nonetheless, choosing a research design for a mixed methods approach is a difficult process because of the complexity of the research approach. However, the nature of the study and its associated research questions were the main considerations that informed the choice of research design for this paper. In other words, matching the design to the study problem, purpose and questions were an important consideration in selecting the research design.

Mixed methods research designs may be fixed or emergent, depending on the nature of the study (FoodRisc 2015). Fixed method designs usually have a predetermined use of qualitative and quantitative research approaches (Buchanan & Bryman 2009). Stated differently, researchers have to plan to use both research approaches before implementing them throughout the study (Buchanan & Bryman 2009). According to Creswell and Clark (2011), researchers use the emergent design when the use of the mixed methods research approach is inevitable as the study progresses. Researchers who use this research approach usually do so when they realise that one method is inadequate for use in the paper (Buchanan & Bryman 2009). This study used the fixed research design, which had a predetermined use of both qualitative and quantitative research approaches.

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Data Collection

The data collection process was in two phases. The first phase involved collecting information from published sources of research, such as books, journals and credible websites. The second phase involved collecting information from professionals (who work in the construction industry) through online surveys (see appendix one). The main motivations for using the online surveys were their relative ease of administration, the ease of developing the questionnaires, the ability to collect a broad range of data, and the possibility of collecting error-free data (Wyse, 2012). Furthermore, the respondents gave their views through an online questionnaire because they were in different parts of the world. Thus, for practical purposes, an online survey was the best option for reaching the professionals who worked in different parts of the globe (Buchanan & Bryman 2009).

The virtual space made it possible to collect their views without much hassle. Furthermore, the online survey technique provided an inexpensive way of gathering the research data (Buchanan & Bryman 2009). This was at a fraction of the time and cost it would have taken to interview the respondents face-to-face. The online data collection technique also simplified the data analysis process because it allowed the respondents to input their data, with minimal chances of error. Electronic data storage also minimised the possibility of losing the completed surveys and improved the ease of analysing the information contained in the documents because of the possibility of using electronic data analysis techniques when analysing the research information. For example, it was possible to program the surveys, despite their complexity, by including intricate skip patterns and logic when developing the surveys and reviewing the responses. The use of online questionnaires also helped to improve the validity and reliability of the research findings because they accommodated the use of statistical techniques of data analysis, which similarly improved the statistical significance of the findings (Wyse, 2012).

Sample Population

The sample population included managers of construction companies in the UAE, Europe and America. Although their recruitment in the study was through random sampling, one criterion for selecting them was their knowledge in the waste management practices that characterise the sector. This is why this paper focuses on sampling the views of the respondents (managers) who were aware of the waste management practices of their companies. The respondents gave their views through an online questionnaire that explored different aspects of the research topic, including finding out existing waste management practices in the construction industry, understanding the effects of construction waste on the environment, and investigating different types of construction waste. The respondents got an invitation to participate in the study through an email.

Fifty managers of construction companies received an invitation to participate in the study. However, only 36 of them agreed to do so. Ten companies wrote a letter to express their regrets for failing to participate in the study. They also gave reasons for failing to do so. Among the most common reasons for failing to participate in the study were the unavailability of company executives and their tight schedules. There were no responses from four company heads. There was no bias in selecting the respondents, based on their gender, age, or experience. The random sampling strategy was appropriate for the study because it provided a good representative sample of the views of construction companies, globally. Furthermore, this sampling strategy helped to eliminate bias in choosing the respondents (Buchanan & Bryman 2009). Nonetheless, the greatest drawback of choosing this sampling strategy was the difficulty associated with achieving it. Stated differently, it took a lot of time, money and effort to actualize this sampling strategy.

Data Analysis

This paper has already shown that this study included an integrated review of past research studies and a survey of the views of construction company managers regarding the management of construction waste. The data analysis process sought to analyse the research information based on these sources of data. For purposes of the integrative literature review process, the study employed the content analysis method, which included nine elaborate steps

  1. Reading through the research articles and noting every interesting bit of analysis
  2. Analysing the information obtained in step one and highlighting the different types of information obtained, including noting how they help in answering the research questions
  3. Reading the list and categorising them in order of how they help to answer the research questions
  4. Analysing the information obtained and finding out if it is possible to merge different research issues to form one major theme
  5. Comparing and contrasting the major and minor categories of themes identified from the analysis in step four
  6. Repeating the above steps if the content analysis process reveals only one transcript
  7. After analysing all the transcripts, the themes identified in each assessment would be subject to further analysis to consider its fit and relevance to the study
  8. Reviewing all the categories emerging from the content analysis process and evaluating whether there is a need for creating new subcategories
  9. Returning to the original transcript and making sure that all the information have been categorised well

Based on the above steps, the content analysis method was appropriate for this paper because it helped to reduce large amounts of unstructured information into easily understandable and manageable research data (Dawson 2002). It also helped to identify the trends and relationships that existed in the data collected. The survey findings helped to bridge some of the gaps that emerged during the content analysis process. By combining both sources of data, it was possible to come up with a holistic understanding of the research issue.

Validity and reliability

Secondary data came from books, peer-reviewed journals and credible websites. This study mainly included research articles published within the last decade. The main purpose of doing so was to get updated and relevant data regarding the management of construction waste in the building industry.

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Ethical Considerations

The importance of observing ethics in research is unrivalled. Paul (2010) says that observing research ethics helps to promote the research aim. This way, it is not easy to include falsifications and misrepresentations of information in the final research. The ethical requirements for research vary, depending on the nature of the research. For example, using human subjects often has many ethical implications (Israel & Hay 2006). The ethical issues emerging in this paper concern the same issue (use of human subjects) and they appear below:


This study observed the principle of honesty through the reporting of the final data. This ethical principle was especially instrumental in analysing the secondary research information. The procedures and publication results characterising the study also manifested this principle. Therefore, the researcher made sure that the research process was free from deception.


Unlike the principle of honesty, which mainly applied to the collection, and analysis of secondary research data, the principle, of objectivity mainly applied to the collection of primary data. This study includes objective research data by avoiding bias throughout the data analysis, data interpretation, and data reporting processes. To do so, this paper reports of possible biases and interests that emerged in the study. Similarly, it includes information concerning how the study avoided/minimised such biases.


Similar to the principle of objectivity, confidentiality also applied to the collection of primary research data. Communications between the researchers and the respondents were confidential. For example, the paper does not include the names of the managers and the contractors who participated in this study. Similarly, it does not give away sensitive information about company operations that would otherwise jeopardise the operations of the sampled study or reveal its competitive secrets that competitors could use to its detriment. In this regard, confidentiality was an important ethical principle observed in this study.


This study always safeguarded the privacy of the respondents. Although the respondents were required to give personal details in the questionnaire, this information did not appear in the final paper. Therefore, personal information obtained from the questionnaire was for purposes of data analysis only. This ethical principle was included in the study to allow the researchers to give information freely. Indeed, by safeguarding their identity and the companies they worked for (or represented), the respondents did not have any inhibitions regarding giving accurate information. I encrypted the information received from the respondents and stored them in a safe location. When the study ended, I destroyed the survey questionnaires.


All the respondents participated in the study voluntarily. Stated differently, I did not coerce or force them to participate in the study. Similarly, there was no financial incentive given to the participants to take part in the study.

Findings and Data Analysis

The integrated literature review process, in chapter two, reviewed information from peer-reviewed journals, books, and credible websites. It answered the first and second research questions. The first research question sought to find out the main types of construction waste in the construction industry, while the second research question sought to determine the main types of construction waste management procedures in the industry. In answering the first research question, the review showed that construction waste included construction materials that were not part of the earth and that needed to be transported elsewhere (besides the construction site) (Assem & Karima 2011). Some researchers defined construction waste as by-products of the construction process (Gudigar & Devanand 2014; EPD 2015). Although many of the studies sampled in this paper showed different types of construction waste, there was no universal understanding of its main types. Indeed, different researchers defined different types of construction waste, depending on the type of construction processes that occurred in their area of study.

This variability came from a similar variety in construction processes across different parts of the world. For example, construction waste in Canada was similar to construction waste in America because both areas share similar construction processes (EPD 2015). Comparatively, the construction waste of South American countries differed from those in North America because the continent uses different types of construction processes compared to those adopted in North America (Velinni 2007). Despite these variables, most of the sampled studies showed dimensional lumber, drywall, wood, corrugated containers, asphalt, fibreglass, metals and plastic as the main types of construction waste (Watson & Howarth 2012; Assem & Karima 2011). The percentage composition of these different types of construction waste differed across different regions of the world, based on the variability of construction processes. The sampled studies also showed that culture, economy, climate and country wealth affected the types of construction waste in a country (Velinni 2007). For example, Gudigar and Devanand (2014) found out that the wealthier countries have more inorganic waste compared to low-income countries that have organic waste.

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This chapter strives to contrast the findings of the literature review process by getting the respondents’ views regarding all the four research objectives of this study. This way, it would confirm the factuality of the information obtained in the second chapter and answer the remaining research questions. It will do so by highlighting the results of the data analysis process and the survey questionnaires. The two sources of data were supposed to answer the research questions, by finding out the main types of waste in the construction industry; investigating the impact of construction waste on the environment; determining the main types of construction waste management procedures; and finding out the challenges that impede the adoption of effective waste management. These questions sought to answer the main research purpose, which was to find the best way for managing construction waste. The views appearing below highlight the findings of the integrated literature review and the survey. However, before delving into these details, the section below highlights the demographic characteristics of the respondents

Demographic Findings

All the respondents sampled in the paper were enthusiastic about participating in the study. They sent back all the surveys issued to them after filling all the important information in the questionnaire. Despite the lack of gender bias, most of the respondents who took part in the study were male (92% male and 8% female). This statistic was understandable because the construction industry is largely a male-dominated industry. Furthermore, few female managers are at the upper echelons of management, in companies or firms that operate in this industry. None of the respondents polled that they had a lower educational level, below that of an undergraduate degree. The majority of them (60%) said they had a master’s degree. Only 2% claimed they had a PHD, while the rest polled that they had completed an undergraduate degree. Higher levels of educational qualification among the respondents could stem from the bias in consulting only managers of construction companies. The 2% of the respondents who polled that they had a PHD were women. However, there was no way to verify this assertion.

When asked to state their experience in the companies they served, the respondents were almost divided evenly across the number of people who polled that they had worked for less than five years and those who had worked for between five and ten years. None of the respondents polled that they had worked for more than 10 years. Based on this statistic, the responses given by the respondents were from a “fairly informed” view. When the respondents had to self-reflect and explain their experiences with managing construction waste, 98% of the respondents claimed that they had either a “strong” or a “very strong” background on the topic. Only 2% of the respondents claimed to have a “medium” understanding of the topic. None of the respondents claimed to have a “weak” or “very weak” understanding of construction waste management practices in the construction industry. These findings showed the respondents’ confidence in answering the research questions. The following sections of this chapter highlight the respondents’ views regarding different aspects of the research questions

Types of Construction Waste

Understanding the most effective ways of managing construction waste requires a proper understanding of the different types of construction waste. This was a key question in the survey because the respondents were required to state the different kinds of construction waste that they knew. The second part of the survey questionnaire required the respondents to prioritise different types of construction waste in the order of their impact on the environment. All of the respondents polled that glass had the strongest impact on the environment. They also polled that metal waste, wood waste, agricultural waste, and paper waste had the most impact on the environment, in that order. It is unclear what criterion informed their decision, but based on their answers, they analysed the question depending on the biodegradability of the wastes. For example, the respondents singled out glass and metal as the types of construction waste that had the most impact on the environment because they were non-biodegradable. Biodegradable wastes, such as wood, paper and agricultural waste, emerged at the bottom of this list. Stated differently, the respondents felt that these wastes had the least impact on the environment. The diagram below shows how they polled

Impact of Construction Wastes on the Environment.
Figure 4.1: Impact of Construction Wastes on the Environment.

When the respondents had to state the largest contributors of construction waste, 46% of them polled that demolition was the largest contributor of construction waste. Only 42% polled that renovation was the greatest contributor of construction waste, while only 12% believed that refurbishments were the greatest source of construction waste.

The integrated literature review showed that different stages of construction affect the volumes of waste produced (Watson & Howarth 2012; Velinni 2007). For example, some of the studies showed that construction waste emerged in the design, procurement, operation, and materials handling stages of the construction process (Yi & Li 2014; Assem & Karima 2011). Some studies showed that many construction waste materials emerged because of ineffective designs (Velinni 2007). EPD (2015) recommended that the reduction of construction waste should happen at the design stage. It also highlighted human weaknesses as a major contributor of construction waste (EPD 2015). Similarly, some of the studies sampled showed that contractor behaviour was a significant contributor of construction waste (Yi & Li 2014). Most of the waste accrued this way emerged from ineffective materials handling procedures such as poor product knowledge and improper storage of building materials as the main potential causes of construction waste (by contractors). Some researchers also noted that poor transportation methods contributed to the high volumes of construction waste in some countries (EPD 2015).

National cultures and ethos that usually permeate through the operational dynamics of the construction industry also emerged as significant contributors of construction waste (Yi & Li 2014). For example, some of the studies showed that the lack of awareness of the construction waste problem made it difficult for countries to see the need of tackling the problem in the first place (Daven & Klein 2008; Velinni 2007). Indeed, by failing to see construction waste as a serious environmental problem, countries are incapable of managing it. This is why the survey questionnaire sought the respondents’ views regarding whether they saw construction waste a significant problem or not. From a poor culture that fails to see construction waste as a serious problem, construction companies often lack the incentive to manage their waste effectively. If governments do not provide the incentive for such companies to dispose their waste, properly, there can be little progress made to tackle the problem of increasing construction waste.

Procurement also emerged as another source of construction waste because the process led to incorrect delivery methods, purchasing inadequate materials for construction, using poor quality materials for construction, getting poor advice from suppliers and failing to take back schemes (Gudigar & Devanand 2014). Lastly, some of the articles sampled in this paper showed that poor operational dynamics in the construction industry, such as using unskilled labour, employee negligence, poor communication and poor coordination, also contribute to construction waste (Watson & Howarth 2012; Kubba 2010).

The sampled studies also showed that the volume of construction waste is increasing in many parts of the world (Napier 2012; Goumans 2010). Other types of waste that are comparable to construction wastes include horticulture waste, general waste, and liquid waste. However, construction waste is among the biggest waste contributors in the world (Napier 2012; Goumans 2010). Studies, which have sampled countries that have a vibrant construction industry, such as the UAE, show that the construction industry could contribute up to 68% of the total waste products in the country (Kubba 2010; Gudigar & Devanand 2014).

Main Sources of Construction Waste Contributing To the Volume of Construction Waste

Refurbishment Waste

Few of the respondents chose refurbishment waste as a common type of construction waste. The different types of construction processes that characterise different parts of the world could explain this outcome. Indeed, some countries do not consider refurbishment as a viable construction process; instead, they prefer to construct new buildings afresh. The literature review process also revealed that there is scanty information explaining this type of waste. One of the respondents pointed out that refurbishment waste was a problematic type of waste because it often arises from small construction projects. It is difficult to enjoy the benefits of adopting strategic resource efficiency when this type of waste is in small amounts. However, as Gudigar and Devanand (2014) observe, local authorities could sanction the collection of such wastes and subject them to a large scale recycling process that would allow people to enjoy the benefits of strategic resource efficiency. Some of the literature sampled in this paper showed that the greatest weakness of this approach is the ignorance of local laws regarding practical policies on resource efficiency (Velinni 2007). The recycling potential for refurbished waste is also minimal, compared to other types of construction waste. Contractors may also refrain from managing this waste off-site because of poor financial gains associated with such waste matter. Therefore, the downside to the management of refurbishment waste is the high cost of managing this waste.

Demolition Waste

Demolition waste was third in the line of construction wastes chosen by the respondents. This type of waste often occurs when contractors demolish buildings for purposes of building new ones. Some common types of demolition waste include insulation, electrical wiring, and wood (Gudigar & Devanand 2014). Other common types of demolition waste include rebar, concrete, bricks, lead and asbestos (Velinni 2007). Common types of demolition waste include concrete, aggregates, glass, and bricks. This kind of waste often originates from soft-strip activities (Yi & Li 2014). Some of the demolition wastes deposited in landfills are hazardous to the environment and human health. For example, plasterboards are hazardous to the environment because they release hydrogen sulphide gas, which is harmful to the environment (Daven & Klein 2008). However, unlike refurbishment waste, the potential for recycling demolition waste is high. For example, for many years, contractors have crushed rubble and used it to construct new buildings (Assem & Karima 2011; Daven & Klein 2008). However, regulations often affect the quantity of waste available for recycling because many jurisdictions have laws that govern how contractors should sort out their waste (Yi & Li 2014). Such regulations affect the quantity of waste that most contractors could haul away to recycling facilities. Indeed, it is common to find that some contractors cannot move demolition waste materials to landfill areas until local authorities come to ascertain that they have observed safety guidelines (Assem & Karima 2011). Among the greatest concern for local authorities is the disposal of hazardous waste material, such as lead, that, sometimes, form part of demolition waste (Li & Chen 2007).

Despite these findings, the integrative review process went a step further to explore this research issue by showing that construction waste could split into two groups – wastes emanating from construction, demolition, and renovation, plus waste emanating from land clearing and development (Gudigar & Devanand 2014). The first category of waste includes gypsum wallboard, steel, glass, bricks, concrete, asphalt roofing, pipe and lumber (Daven & Klein 2008). The second category of construction waste includes organic materials moved from the earth to pave way for construction (Assem & Karima 2011). This second category of waste highlights organic waste matter. The literature review section shows that this waste category is lower in many developing nations as compared to many developing nations (Velinni 2007; Daven & Klein 2008). Conversely, the first category of construction waste material is more common in developed nations as opposed to developing nations.

Ongoing Waste Management Practices

Based on the literature review section of this paper, researchers have recommended different types of waste management strategies for purposes of waste reduction. An article by Ganiron (2015) was of particular interest to this study because it argued that the three best types of waste management strategies were recycling, landfill, and Incineration. However, when the respondents had to state their views regarding waste management processes, 70% of them said that waste minimisation should occur whenever there is an opportunity to do so. They also implied that all companies should minimise waste whenever possible or reuse materials that they would have otherwise disposed. This is why most of the respondents said the unchecked increase of waste materials could affect the performance of the construction industry.

When asked to state which stakeholder was most responsible for managing construction waste, the respondents polled that government had the greatest responsibility of managing this waste. Five respondents polled that this responsibility rested with contractors. None of the respondents believed that the clients had a role to play in managing construction waste. The views explaining the different kinds of waste management practices undertaken by the respondents (in their companies) varied widely. There was an almost even divide between the construction companies that used landfills and minimization techniques as the main waste management practices. Only 32% of the respondents said they used minimisation techniques, while 31% of the respondents said they used landfill. Similarly, only 17% of the respondents said they used recycling methods to manage construction waste, while 20% polled that they adopted waste reuse as the main waste management technique.

These respondents believed that reusing construction waste was a viable waste management practice, adopted by different construction companies in the world. Reusing construction waste refers to employing construction materials in other parts of the construction sector, or other industrial sectors (Velinni 2007). For example, architectural companies could buy unwanted street furniture as a reuse strategy. Similarly, companies could use the excavated soil from construction processes for landscaping. Furthermore, they could use such soil for road building projects (Assem & Karima 2011). Therefore, instead of scrapping such waste, they could salvage it. Based on these insights, construction waste was a significant worry for most of the respondents. Particularly, they were mostly worried about the impact of non-biodegradable waste on the environment. The government also emerged as a key part of the solution.

According to Watson and Howarth (2012), recycling was the most appropriate waste management strategy. Nonetheless, concerning construction waste management and the fulfilment of the research aim, which sought to find out the best methods for managing construction waste, most of the articles sampled showed three main options that companies could use to manage waste – preventing waste, reusing waste, and recycling waste (Kubba 2010; Gudigar & Devanand 2014). Preventing waste creation in the first place emerged as the best way for construction companies to manage waste. Some environmental agencies, such as the Environment Protection Agency, have supported this strategy by suggesting the use of effective design strategies, for construction, that should help to minimise waste creation (Watson & Howarth 2012).

Reuse is a strategy that such companies should use to manage waste if the first strategy fails (Goumans 2010). The recycling option is a last resort if the above two strategies fail. Other waste management strategies, which emerged from the review included logistics waste management, supply chain management, and employee training (Daven & Klein 2008). These strategies strive to streamline the operations management process by making it more effective. Still focused on strategies for managing construction waste, the literature review process revealed that the main drivers that minimised material waste included an improvement of management policies and contractual terms, an improvement of environmental standards, and the provision of financial incentives for proper waste management (Gudigar & Devanand 2014). Using this system, authorities have a chance to sort through the waste and identify materials that would be suitable for recycling and others that would equally be useful for reusing. The integrative review process expanded this focus of study by showing that waste management processes could involve five distinct processes as outlined below

Management Strategy for Construction waste
Figure 4.2: Management Strategy for Construction waste (Source: EPD 2015).

The above diagram not only explains the different strategies of managing construction waste, but also highlights their order of desirability. According to the arrow on the left side of the cone, desirability increases when moving up the cone. Therefore, the least desirable method of managing waste is disposing them in landfill areas. The second best method of waste management is treatment. Recycling, minimisation, and avoidance also climb the ladder of desirability in that order. Some government agencies have used these methods (in the desired format) to manage waste. For example, in the U.K, EPD (2015) has used these methods (in their order of desirability) to encourage the reuse and recycling of construction waste in the country. It has also used the same methods to encourage the sorting of new construction waste and to maintain a well-managed public filling programs (EPD 2015).

There are many opportunities available for managing construction waste. However, the success of alternative measures of waste management lies in educating construction professionals about the importance of effective waste management. This is why Napier (2012) says,

“Construction industry professionals and building owners can educate and be educated about issues such as beneficial reuse, effective strategies for identification and separation of wastes, and economically viable means of promoting environmentally and socially appropriate means of reducing total waste disposed” (p. 3).

Environmental organisations or construction agencies can assume a stewardship role in educating construction professionals about waste management (Napier 2012). They could also help in increasing awareness beyond professional groups to the public and the construction industry at large. Similarly, they could contribute towards the creation of a stable business environment that would allow for the adoption of alternative waste management processes, such as recycling and the reuse of construction waste matter (EPD 2015). Indeed, this is why Napier (2012) says, “Businesses can create value through the return of wastes back to manufacturing processes, promoting and seeking out opportunities for incorporation of recycled materials into products, and prioritising reduction of building-related wastes through efficient jobsite practices”(p. 4).

Impact of Construction Waste on the Environment

Researchers have used different types of metrics to estimate the impact of construction waste on the environment. Studies by Ganiron (2015) posit that the Global Warming Potential is the main indicator for assessing the impact of construction waste on the environment. This indicator mainly assesses the impact of construction waste by finding out the potential for the waste in producing greenhouse gases (Ganiron 2015). However, the respondents had different views surrounding the impact of construction waste on the environment.

The purpose of this study was to find effective ways of managing construction waste. This need came from the harmful effects of construction waste on the environment and human health. The importance of focusing on this research issue was to have a clearer understanding of why we need to seek sustainable ways of managing it. When assessing the impact of construction waste on the environment, the respondents had to express their views regarding different aspects of the topic, including their understanding of the impact of construction waste on marine life, air quality, water supply, and ecological diversity. When the respondents were required to state their views regarding their general perception of the impact of construction waste on the environment, most of the respondents claimed that its impact was either “strong” or “very strong.” Only one respondent polled that the impact of construction waste was “medium.” Other questions that got similar responses sought to investigate the respondents’ views regarding the impact of construction waste on air quality and ecological diversity. Few of the respondents believed that construction waste would have a serious impact on marine life or water supply systems. These questions got responses of either “weak” or “very weak.” These views were largely contextual because the respondents polled, depending on their local assessments of the impact of construction waste on the environment.

Ongoing Waste Management Practices

Construction waste management is not a new topic. Researchers have highlighted this problem on many occasions (Golush 2008; Woolley & Goumans 2010). Construction companies, governments, and other stakeholders have also used their findings to come up with innovative ways of managing construction waste. This paper sought to find out these methods and possibly understand whether they work or not. Consequently, the respondents had to prioritise the most popular methods of waste disposal in their companies by choosing whether they used recycling, reuse or minimisation techniques. Most of the respondents said they used minimisation as the most common waste management technique. When asked to state any waste management programs governing their waste management practices, some of the respondents said that they participated in community programs to clean the environment. Others claimed that their company missions included waste management as a corporate social responsibility. Some of the respondents also said they complied with government-led programs to reduce the volume of waste management in the construction industry. There was no clear mention of a specific program for managing construction waste among the respondents. This outcome was especially prevalent among the respondents who claimed that minimisation was their most popular waste management strategy. The failure of the respondents to identify a waste management program could have been a structural weakness in the design of the questionnaire.

When asked to explain whether the waste management programs were successful, most of the respondents answered affirmatively. This view could have stemmed from their optimism in participating in a program they would like to succeed. Therefore, they could have shown their bias in this regard. The possibility of bias emerged when the respondents were supposed to express their views regarding whether they believed people could make improvements in their programs because most of them said they needed improvements in their programs. These views exposed the cautious optimism regarding the success of ongoing waste management practices. Nonetheless, minimisation emerged as the most popular waste minimisation strategy.

Challenges in Waste Management

Investigating the challenges that impede the adoption of waste management practices was a step towards understanding why different companies did not embrace available waste management practices. The questionnaire categorised these challenges as legal challenges, market challenges, and geographical challenges. Most of the respondents polled that legal challenges were the main impediments to the adoption of available construction waste management practices. Market challenges were the second biggest challenges identified by the respondents. Geographical challenges were the last challenges impeding the adoption of effective waste management practices. The diagram below shows how the respondents polled.

Challenges to the Adoption of Construction waste management practices.
Figure 4.3: Challenges to the Adoption of Construction waste management practices.

When the respondents had to state the role of the government in facilitating the adoption of waste management practices, most of them said the government should play a facilitating role. However, some of them also believed that the government’s role should be “initiative.” Most of the respondents who polled this way were from developing countries. Comparatively, the respondents who believed that the government’s role should be facilitative mainly came from the US and Europe. Their collective experience in the construction industry was more than 65 years.

There was a unanimous agreement that the role of stakeholder involvement in the adoption of construction waste management was “very strong.” This admission meant that the respondents supported a collective approach to the adoption of new construction waste practices. Similarly, they also believed that one entity could not spearhead the adoption of such waste management practices alone. Another area where there was a unanimous response from the respondents was the admission that there could be more improvements made in improving current waste management practices. However, they had different views on the issue when they were supposed to explain why they believed in the importance of improving their waste management practices. Lastly, when they were supposed to state their views regarding the trajectory of construction waste management practices, along with the continuum of sustainable waste management, their views nearly evenly split. Stated differently, 41% of the respondents polled that the construction industry was not on the right track in embracing sustainable waste management practices, while 51% of them believed it was on the right track in embracing sustainable waste management practices. The diagram below shows these views

Progress of Construction Industry in Adopting Sustainable Development Practices.
Figure 4.4: Progress of Construction Industry in Adopting Sustainable Development Practices.

When asked to state their reasons for polling as above, the respondents had varied views regarding the development of the construction industry and its performance in embracing sustainable development. For example, one of the respondents said that on-site and off-site sorting processes could affect the ease of adopting effective waste management processes. He mentioned that he preferred to use on-site sorting processes because it allowed contractors to oversee the sorting process, thereby giving him the privilege of supervising the sorting process and managing the profits that would arise from selling the waste. He believed that this locus of control, of the waste management process, made him more motivated to look for better ways of improving the process. He also highlighted his preference for the on-site waste management process because it improved his relationship with his clients because it allowed them to see the green-building efforts, first-hand, when they saw the recycling process in action.

When asked to state any drawbacks of the on-site waste management process, the contractor mentioned that additional on-site labour costs increased their operational costs. He also mentioned space limitations that would hinder companies from undertaking on-site waste management processes because of the lack of inadequate space for putting bins. Similarly, the respondent said that installing bins required a lot of due diligence on their part because contamination could occur when workers do not sort out the waste matter properly. Respondents who preferred off-site sorting of waste matter said they preferred it because it allowed them to mix waste matter since there is no need for on-site waste management. However, some of them expressed their reservations regarding the limitations associated with waste recycling facilities.

The limited need for staff training to handle waste matter was also a significant attraction for some of the respondents because waste treatment facilities provided this service. Therefore, there was no need to hire or train some workers to undertake this duty. This was a significant cost reduction measure. By having less pressure to have an on-site waste management centre, the contractors also felt less pressure to have big spaces of operation for managing the waste. Nonetheless, having an off-site construction waste management centre implied additional costs of operation and lost profits for contractors because they have to pay a fixed sum of money to hauliers. The waste management companies benefit from the process through increased profits by sorting and selling the construction waste without considering the source of the waste. The loss of profits by the contractors who generate the waste is occasionally a deterrent for some of them when choose this method of waste management. Nonetheless, the integrated literature review process showed that, regional affiliation and project-specific factors were the most notable factors determining the ease of adopting effective construction waste management processes (Woolley & Goumans 2010; Assem & Karima 2011).

When the respondents had to state the types of challenges that exist in adopting effective waste management practices, some of them highlighted that limited markets for products made from recycled materials was a significant deterrent for the adoption of alternative waste management practices. Others argued that it was difficult to find a market for reusable construction materials because of the perceived low quality of such materials. Relative to this discussion, one of the respondents said,

Even when we find markets for reusable construction waste, such markets are often limited. For example, in the UAE, such opportunities for selling products made from recycled materials or reusable products is only limited to some parts of the country. Based on these limitations, it is difficult to convince a contractor to use recycling and reuse as a viable alternative for managing waste.

Another respondent gave a different perspective of the problem by saying that projects that are only viable in small economies drive the UAE construction industry. Since such economies offer low-value contracts, most of the contractors have no option but to provide low-value bids. Depositing waste in landfill areas is a significant part of their cost-cutting strategy. Therefore, they cannot easily adopt alternative waste management strategies, such as recycling, that would increase the costs of their operations. Based on this view, one of the respondents said,

We would only use recycling or reusing waste management strategies if it was a requirement for all companies that make their bids. We get business through such bids and so long as we do not find it profitable to use alternative waste management methods, we would not use them. Also…we would consider using these strategies if the markets made it less costly for us, especially if they made it less costly than using landfill”

Legal Hindrances

The integrated literature review further delved deeper into this topic by showing that different countries have unique regulations that govern the activities of developers in the construction industry (Woolley & Goumans 2010). Most of these regulations govern most aspects of the construction process, including construction waste management. This is an important piece of analysis when formulating construction waste management processes because it is difficult to bypass these regulations when introducing or adopting new waste management strategies (Gudigar & Devanand 2014).

The Resource Conservation and recovery Act is the main legislative item that governs waste management processes in the US (Woolley & Goumans 2010). This waste management law usually outlines the processes for managing solid waste, which appears in law as hazardous waste (Woolley & Goumans 2010). These types of waste often have an impact on human health and the environment. Canada uses the 1999 Canadian Environmental protection Act to manage construction waste management processes (Woolley & Goumans 2010). However, in the North American country, different echelons of government have a duty to protect the environment and human health by influencing different aspects of construction waste management. For example, municipal government authorities have the responsibility of collecting and disposing construction waste materials, while provincial authorities offer licensing services (Assem & Karima 2011).

Daven and Klein (2008) say regulations should introduce new measures of responsibility on producers, particularly regarding understanding the materials they use for construction. Such a regulation would have a twofold impact on construction processes. First, it would affect the product lifecycle of the materials used in construction. This would have a direct impact on waste management process through improved waste reduction. Stated differently, such a regulation would make contractors think about the implications of the products they use in construction (Kubba 2010). The same approach would help to promote the reuse and recycling of waste matter if the processes would improve the product lifecycle of materials used in construction (Kubba 2010). To assess the lifecycle impact of the products used in this process, contractors should use an environmental profile to understand the impact of their processes. Thereafter, they should make improvements in their materials use processes based on the results of this process.

The lack of standardised building processes is also another legal hurdle impeding the adoption of effective waste management practices. The lack of standardised building processes explains the variables in construction waste across different parts of the world. Many regions still use traditional building methods that have partly contributed to the huge volumes of waste reported in the construction industry (Winkler 2010).


A country’s geography could affect how well it adapts to new construction management processes and how it defines its resistance to the adoption of new construction management processes (Daven & Klein 2008). Countries that have a lot of free land are less likely to embrace new construction management processes because they could accumulate a lot of waste without feeling their primary effects. Comparatively, countries that have minimal free land are more conscious about having landfills or construction waste taking too much of their space. This is why they are more interested in recycling or reusing their construction waste (Daven & Klein 2008). The integrated literature review process showed that such countries have a better record of managing their waste, compared to those that have a lot of free land (Gudigar & Devanand 2014; Assem & Karima 2011). For example, the Netherlands has had a good record of effective construction waste management because it has minimal free land (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004).

This is why the recycling culture has been a key part of the country’s construction process. The scarce availability of natural aggregates and landfill areas have forced the Dutch government to adopt several political and economic policies that support proper management of construction waste (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). These factors have also encouraged the country to encourage and recycle building scraps (Kubba 2010). This is why, since 1996, the Dutch government has required all contractors in the country to sort out hazardous and non-hazardous waste matter before disposing construction waste (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Furthermore, the Dutch government has developed new laws for discouraging the general promotion of demolition as a driver for the construction industry (through the creation of new buildings) to the promotion of selective demolition to reduce the volume of waste arising from demolition (Assem & Karima 2011). In 1997, the government introduced new laws to prohibit the disposal of reusable waste in landfill (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). With the target of achieving a 90% reuse of construction waste, there has been a renewed focus on the government to impose a complete ban on disposing reusable, or recyclable, construction waste in landfill areas (Assem & Karima 2011). Limited space for accommodating more landfill areas is a reason why the Dutch government is on a quest to reduce the volume of construction waste, in the country. By acknowledging this geographical challenge, it is easy to understand why countries with limited geographical space are likely to be more ready to adopt new construction waste management methods, compared to countries that have a lot of free geographical space they could use to accommodate landfill without affecting their livelihoods (Li & Chen 2007).

Limited Markets

The integrative literature review process also affirmed some of the sentiments expressed by the respondents regarding limited markets as a hindrance to the adoption of effective waste management practices. For example, Limbachiya and Roberts (2004) gave an example of one project to recycle carpets in America, which failed because of market failures. In 2002, the Carpets and Rags Company (a big company in the USA) won a tender to recycle used carpets in the country. The company had projected to recycle more than 2 lb (907 million kilograms) of carpets every year, until 2012 (Limbachiya & Roberts, 2004). To achieve this goal, the company had identified where to recycle the waste and how to do it. For example, it planned to recycle the products and sell them to cement kilns. This was an appropriate use of the recycled materials (Kubba 2010). However, while doing so, it learned new facts about the business. For example, it learned that most cement companies were only willing to use the recycled materials if they received money to do so. Although there were other uses of the recycled products, the market opportunities for selling them were minimal (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Market unreliability was also a problem for the Carpets and Rags Company. Consequently, the company had to withdraw from the contract. The above example shows that although recycling was an old waste management strategy, markets are still not prepared to support this strategy and make it more economically feasible for contractors.

What have Governments done to limit the Impact of Construction Waste?

Globally, there have been concerted efforts to manage the volume and quantity of waste emerging from the construction industry (Winkler 2010; Li & Chen 2007). Spearheaded by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), governments have agreed to create waste diversion and management plans to reduce the volume of waste created (Li & Chen 2007). There have also been efforts by international organisations to introduce new certification standards to regulate the type of operations that occur in the construction industry (Winkler 2010). For example, the UAE government adopts the LEED rating system to introduce the concept of sustainability in its local construction processes (Winkler 2010). The LEED rating system makes it mandatory for construction companies to have a waste management plan before they start their construction projects (Assem & Karima 2011). The main purpose of doing so is to reduce the expected volume of construction waste from building projects. Besides being a direct waste minimisation strategy, it also helps to increase the popularity of other waste management strategies, such as recycling and reuse (Winkler 2010).

Indeed, contractors have to specify one waste management plan in their building blueprints to get the certification, or consent, to undertake their projects. In the UAE, contractors could earn up to four credit points by complying with the LEED rating system (Winkler 2010). If they choose to either use the recycling or reuse waste management strategies, they could earn up to a maximum of two points (Winkler 2010). Using this credit system, LEED provides two types of certification levels for construction management – MRc2.1 and MRc 2.2 (LEED User 2015). The government issues MRc.2.1 to construction companies that have diverted 50% of their construction waste, for use in other purposes besides landfill (LEED User 2015). It often amounts to one point. The government awards an MRc2.2 certification to contractors that divert more than 75% of their waste to other purposes (Winkler 2010). It often has a credit rating of two points (LEED User 2015). Collectively, these credit rating standards encourage countries to minimise their volumes of construction waste because the fewer wastes they produce, the lesser the pressure to recycle or reuse the waste (Winkler 2010). The LEED credit system takes a broader understanding of waste management by reducing the volume of waste produced by construction companies that seek alternative uses of construction waste (Winkler 2010). Common strategies proposed in this model are finding alternative uses of the construction waste and selling the construction waste to other economic sectors that would find it useful (Swain 2014).

Waste Minimisation

The UAE has been on the forefront in using LEED to manage construction waste. This has been a waste minimisation strategy because it helps contractors to standardise their building operations with globally accepted best practices (Swain 2014). The Pearl rating system has also been another in-house certification metric that most UAE contractors have used to manage their construction practices. Its adoption is an example of how to reduce waste through the redesigning of building blueprints (Winkler 2010). The pearl rating system has helped to regulate building designs by making them more environmentally friendly than traditional buildings. However, the UAE does not adopt a general application of these building standards because it adopts location-specific building standards. For example, the green building movements, in some municipalities, closely align with some building standards, such as USGBC and LEED V3 (Winkler 2010). Relative to this assertion, Swain (2014) says

“As a general requirement, for the purpose of credit compliance, excavated materials such as soil, sand, land clearing debris and hazardous wastes are exempted for calculation of the percentage of waste diverted from disposal at landfill facilities. However, it is required to divert these substances to places designated by the concerned department of the local regulatory authorities” (p. 4).

Dubai is an emirate in the UAE that has been at the forefront in promoting waste minimisation strategies. Although it does not directly enforce green building laws, it makes sure its contractors embrace sustainable development strategies by outlining stringent requirements for issuing building permits (LEED User 2015). For example, it is a common building requirement in Dubai for its local contractors to divert 50% (or more) of its construction waste to either recycling or reusing waste management methods before they get a permit to undertake their activities (LEED User 2015). Soil excavation and hazardous waste materials are not part of this legislation.

The EHS Trakhees building department complements the work of local authorities in enforcing green building standards because it is the regulatory wing of port, customs and Free Zone Corporation (Swain 2014). Through this board, the regulatory institution has the power to award green building points. For example, buildings that divert 50% of their construction waste away from landfill earn one point for doing so (Swain 2014). Contractors that divert more than 75% of their construction waste away from landfill areas earn two points. To elaborate on this framework, Swain (2014) says,

“In the building reuse credit category, EHS Trakhees awards up to 3 points for maintaining the existing building structure (including structural floor and roof decking) and envelop (the exterior skin and framing, excluding window assemblies and non-structural roof materials)” (p. 7).

Contractors who reuse construction waste could earn up to a maximum of two points in the materials reuse category. The threshold for earning this point is usually low, compared to the diversion metrics because contractors could earn one point for salvaging 5% of their construction waste (Swain 2014). Along the same continuum of analysis, contractors could earn two points for salvaging 10% of their construction waste.

Pearl Rating System

The pearl rating system is an independent regulatory framework for regulating construction projects in the UAE (Kubba 2010). It also strives to minimise the volume of construction waste, alongside reducing the demand for the energy consumed by these buildings (Winkler 2010). The Abu Dhabi-based urban planning council introduced this rating system to govern building projects in the UAE (Kubba 2010). The regulations of the pearl rating system require contractors to divert not less than 30% of their construction waste to recycling or salvaging (Winkler 2010). Although there is no credit awarded to contractors for doing so, it helps to reduce the volume of waste produced by the construction sector and increase the volume of recycling activities in the same industry (Swain 2014). Comprehensively, if properly implemented, the pearl rating system could effectively reduce the demand for new construction material and similarly reduce the volume of waste produced by contractors in the UAE (Kubba 2010).

Available Methods of Waste Management

The integrated review process showed that, traditionally, available methods of waste management have followed three paths – landfill, single stream, and source-separated (Hendricks & Janssen 2001). Although the selection of the waste management methods may vary across different projects, different contractors have unique considerations for selecting the right type of waste management method to use. For example, Hendricks and Janssen (2001) say many of them consider matching the waste management project with local market dynamics as an important consideration for choosing the right waste management strategy. Similarly, they would consider the effect of existing regulation policies on their waste management processes (Woolley & Goumans 2010). Nonetheless, traditionally, many contractors have chosen to use landfill as the easiest method for disposing waste (Woolley & Goumans 2010).

Although many jurisdictions still allow contractors to use this waste management strategy, some of them are introducing new regulations demanding that the contractors at least show an attempt to recycle the waste. Kumbhar and Desai (2013) disagree with the views of researchers who say that the lack of developed markets for recycled products inhibits the adoption of recycling as a viable approach for managing construction waste. Instead, he argues that with the increased use of crushed concrete as road aggregate and wood waste for building and construction projects, most types of construction waste have a market (Kumbhar & Desai 2013). Relative to this discussion, Limbachiya and Roberts (2004) state that “even municipalities who have not yet adopted a threshold recycling rate for demolition projects are requiring contractors to file a plan showing how they will manage the project waste” (p. 5). Nonetheless, a deeper insight of the arguments advanced by these two sets of researchers, shows that they differ on the extent of market development available for recycled waste products.

Recycling as a Viable Strategy for managing non-biodegradable Waste

The literature review section of this paper showed that recycling was a common and viable method of waste management practiced in different parts of the world. While this is true, few countries practice recycling as a significant waste management strategy. In fact, developed countries, which produce a lot of construction waste rarely use this strategy as a waste management method (Kumbhar & Desai 2013). Limbachiya and Roberts (2004) affirm this fact when they say that only about 20% of the total waste produced in the world is recycled or reused.

For example, Germany is a large producer of construction waste in Europe, but only recycles 17% of its waste (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Indeed, since 1996, the government has tried to improve this situation by introducing legislations that encourage recycling and reduce the quantity of waste disposed in landfill areas to no avail (Watson and Howarth 2012). Nonetheless, such legislations have made it compulsory for contractors to recycle recyclable waste, failure to which they would be punishable by law.

Italy is another country that, although a contributor of waste in Europe, seldom embraces recycling on a wider scale of construction waste management (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Some of the literatures sampled in this study showed some possible valid reasons for this outcome. For example, Watson and Howarth (2012) argued that the relatively low levels of waste disposal in landfill areas, the abundance of natural aggregates, and the lack of up-to-date specification rules are specific reasons why Italy may not have embraced recycling as a common waste management method. Recycling has not been a common strategy of waste management because countries that could afford to have landfill areas find it economical and easier to send the waste to landfill areas (Kumbhar & Desai 2013). Therefore, simplicity and economy have been the main drivers impeding the adoption of recycling as an economical waste management strategy for managing waste.

Recycling markets have also barely existed for many construction companies around the world that would like to dispose their waste in an environmentally responsible way (Kumbhar & Desai 2013). This fact also explains why many manufacturers never considered developing recycled materials for a long time. Instead, they considered using virgin materials to control quality issues when manufacturing their products (Kumbhar & Desai 2013). However, rising energy costs and the rising costs of production have forced many of them to consider using waste materials for price and quality controls (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). These pressures have changed the direction of manufacturing and construction waste practices in favour of recycling. Relative to the use of recycling as a viable strategy for waste management, one of the respondents said,

Recycling is also a good marketing strategy for many construction companies because it portrays an image that we are companies that care for the environment. It shows that we support a philosophy that caters for the environment. Environmental sustainability, I should say. Personally, I know of many companies that have won government projects, particularly, those that involve western companies, and made a lot of money by simply branding themselves as environmentally sustainable companies. Recycling has been a key part of their branding campaign.”

This statement alone shows that there is a marketing value in embracing recycling as an environmentally conscious way of disposing construction waste materials. Based on the views of Kumbhar and Desai (2013), the economic and social value of embracing recycling as a viable waste management practice has made a solid argument for many construction companies who have adopted a hierarchical structure for waste management. This structure appears as the recycling triangle below

Recycling Triangle.
Figure 4.5: Recycling Triangle.

Studies by Gudigar and Devanand (2014) argue that recycling is a smarter way of managing construction waste because of many reasons. For example, they say that the creation of employment is a significant advantage of using recycling as a viable waste management strategy (Gudigar & Devanand 2014). Studies by Limbachiya and Roberts (2004) also affirm this fact because they show that for every recycling plant, ten people get jobs. A further 35 people are employed in manufacturing products developed from recyclable materials (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Using recycling methods to manage waste also has positive waste implications. Incinerators have been the alternative to recycling methods, but their negative environmental impact (emission of lead and mercury) show that recycling is a better alternative to managing waste. Furthermore, incinerators require a constant supply of waste to keep them economically sound (Daven & Klein 2008).

Building incinerator facilities is also an expensive affair. In fact, since there have not been any new ventures to construct them in the US, since 1995, it is uneconomical to rely on this waste management method (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Therefore, recycling emerges as a cheaper alternative. Lastly, recycling emerges as an appropriate waste management method because it reduces the cost associated with extracting raw materials that most researchers would have otherwise used for construction (Golush 2008). Indeed, the integrated literature review revealed that construction companies have significant cost benefits to enjoy from this process. For example, it showed that most Americans save an equivalent of 35 million barrels of oil by recycling 1,000,000 tonnes of aluminium waste (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Similarly, for every 1,000,000 tonnes of plastic recycled in America, its citizens save more than 9 million tonnes of oil that most companies would have otherwise used to extract new materials for construction (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004). Since demolition emerges as the highest producers of waste, Gudigar and Devanand (2014) believe that there is a lot of potential for adopting recycling in this sector.

To achieve positive results, it is important to take the route followed by some countries, such as the UAE in observing globally recognised building standards. Creativity, persistence and the acquisition of new knowledge are important aspects of waste minimisation that should form part of the redesign process. Understanding relevant regulations that govern the waste management process is also an important skill that should contribute towards the realisation of effective construction design processes that help in waste minimisation.

Governments need to be at the forefront in controlling the activities of the construction industry as a strategy for managing construction waste. For example, they should regulate waste management processes, such as demolitions. The United States (U.S) has been instrumental in demonstrating how such a strategy could work because the North American nation has effectively regulated construction waste management processes under the Code of Federal Regulations (Velinni 2007). In this regard, some construction waste materials are lawfully disposed. However, the problem with poor waste management occurs when construction companies dispose this waste on virgin lands and natural drainage systems. Usually, such acts happen contrary to existing rules and regulations surrounding the process. These laws contravene existing laws on health, environment, and commerce. When companies dispose their waste lawfully, appointed environmental authorities could safely dispose the waste. For example, in the U.S, health authorities pick lawfully dumped waste in a safe manner through a process known as diversion (Gudigar & Devanand 2014; Li & Chen 2007).

This paper has also shown that joint stakeholder involvement is important in promoting sustainable development. This principle is equally important in promoting good practices in construction waste management. Particularly, there must be concerted efforts on the part of government, professional bodies, and businesses to promote effective construction waste management practices (Li & Chen 2007). The U.S has demonstrated the potential positive benefits of this approach because by promoting coordinated action among stakeholders, the country has been a global leader in the adoption of effective construction waste management practices (Velinni 2007). In this regard, it has identified the best construction management practices that not only cater to the interests of developers and their clients, but also to the public (Velinni 2007).

Although recycling has been highlighted by many respondents as an alternative way of managing waste, Hendricks and Janssen (2001) suggest the need for understanding the two types of recycling methods – separating materials at the source, and commingling them for purposes of sending them to an offshore location where other people could use them. Either of the two approaches could be useful in minimising the volume of waste generated in the construction industry, but the success of either strategy would depend on the ability of contractors to find enough space (on-site) for sorting through the waste and the willingness of the contractor to adopt friendly waste management practices. The availability of good sorting facilities could also affect the ability of construction companies to adopt more effective waste management practices (LEED User 2015).

Conclusion and Recommendations


The construction industry is a rapidly growing economic sector. However, its growth has come at the expense of environmental sustainability. This paper has shown that different countries grapple with the problem of increasing construction waste, which continues to choke the environment. From this background, this paper sought to find out the best ways for managing this crisis. It had four main objectives, which were to find out the main sources of construction waste, to investigate the impact of construction waste, to identify challenges that impede the adoption of effective waste management practices, and to investigate ongoing waste management practices. The main sources of construction waste emerged as refurbishment, renovations and demolitions. These sources of construction waste have different contributions to the formation of construction waste, depending on the geographical area under analysis and the types of construction practices in the regions.

These construction wastes had the greatest impact on the environment through air pollution and the destruction of ecological biodiversity. The destruction of marine life and the contamination of water supply systems did not emerge as significant effects of poor waste management. This paper also showed that the greatest concern for environmental degradation arose from the increased quantities of non-biodegradable waste dumped in landfill areas. This is why agricultural waste, wood, and paper were not of great concern to the respondents sampled in this paper. Based on this understanding, the focus on waste management should be on managing non-biodegradable waste, such as plastics and glass. Since these materials are recyclable, the focus should be on improving the management of these wastes through recycling. However, based on the minimal uptake of this method as a viable waste management method (even in developed countries), stakeholders should make more effort to promote recycling as a dominant strategy of managing non-biodegradable waste.

Data relating to the causes composition and the amount of waste generated in the construction industry are diverse and varied as the types of construction processes available. Rather than let this complexity cloud the objectives of this paper, this study has taken a more simplistic approach of identifying what the industry could aim to do (regarding construction waste management). By doing so, it is easy to find out the mechanisms for reinforcing this objective. Therefore, the approach taken in this paper to answer its research questions has been developing long-term targets for improvement (where possible related to baseline data), and modelling the way to achieving these targets. Through the same process, this study has strived to identify data and actions needed to promote the development of action plans for waste management processes.


Future Considerations

An emerging trend that would affect the adoption of new waste management practices would be the increasing cost of energy, globally. From this trend, people would start to recognise construction and demolition waste as a reusable resource. Technology would also be an important contributor to this agenda because it would help to divert more resources from the landfill areas to renewable resource facilities. In this regard, more organic construction waste materials, such as wood and plant wastes, would be useful for energy generation purposes, such as the production of biogas. There could also be a new trend among contractors to reclaim their waste products for purposes of future improvements. Besides increasing energy prices, public concern regarding environmental degradation would force governments to reconsider the waste management agenda. Climate change will also be a significant driving force in the adoption of new waste management practices in the coming decades.

Its impact on waste reduction, recycling, waste products and reusing waste products is likely to emerge by influencing the decision of contractors regarding the prioritization of building types, technology and products for use in the construction process. Climate change concerns are enshrined in the sustainable development agenda. This is why the integrated literature review revealed that most of the sampled articles showed that construction waste management was an important aspect of sustainable development. In the view of most researchers, waste management mainly involved eliminating waste where possible (EPD 2015; Daven & Klein 2008). This view aligned with the views seen in the second chapter of this paper, which suggested that minimising waste would effectively occur in the design stage process of the construction industry. This is why some of the respondents highlighted the reduction and redesign of construction plans as another waste management strategy. Limbachiya and Roberts (2004) agree with this strategy by saying that redesigning construction plans is a more effective way of managing construction waste, better than recycling or reusing the waste. They provide a practical example of this method by saying “Cement and lime stabilisation can be used to improve the load bearing performance of certain soils which would otherwise need to be excavated and cleared off-site” (Limbachiya & Roberts 2004, p. 16).

Managing construction waste through the redesign of construction programs is an issue explored by researchers who have struggled to draw a link between design changes and climate change. For example, Hendricks and Janssen (2001) say adopting new building design offers an opportunity for contractors to minimise waste through the inclusion of sustainability in a building’s functionality. This way, contractors embed the concept of resource efficiency in the building’s lifecycle (Hendricks & Janssen 2001). Limbachiya and Roberts (2004) introduce a more interesting understanding of this research focus by saying that waste reduction, reuse and recycling methods are not going to achieve much if they do not align with the climate change agenda. Some researchers have also held the view that changing building designs to align with the climate change agenda is likely to increase the volume of construction waste because there would be a huge amount of waste coming from the refurbishment of old buildings to align with the new goal of developing sustainable buildings (LEED User 2015). This fact also explains why some studies show that most of the construction waste in the world today comes from the demolition of old buildings (Winkler 2010; Daven & Klein 2008). This situation emphasises the need for having a planned waste use action for outlining how the demolition waste would help in improving other construction processes. For example, there should be new opportunities of using the construction waste at the local plan level. This could happen by using masonry equipment for internal thermal mass processes. This analysis highlights the importance of material resource efficiency as a key tenet of future waste management processes.


With the growing trend towards sustainable building, standardisation is also likely to influence building processes in the future. This paper has already highlighted LEED as a credit rating criterion influencing many construction processes in the world today. Such criteria are likely to improve the standardisation of building processes in the world (Winkler 2010). Its impact would be waste reduction across the industry. It also means that there would be a growing trend towards the adoption of effective waste management programs in the industry. Standardisation would also bring a focused approach to understanding waste management because formulating waste minimisation plans for a few projects would have widespread impacts in other parts of the world (Winkler 2010). Conversely, this would lead to targeted procurement processes because the contractors would have to buy only those products that have a long-term sustainable impact (Yi & Li 2014).

Stakeholder Involvement

Based on the views highlighted by the respondents sampled in this paper, stakeholder involvement also emerges as an important consideration for improving the uptake of innovative waste management practices. This paper has already shown that there is no shortage of innovative waste management practices. The problem exists in creating the right conditions for contractors to exploit these opportunities. For example, market challenges have emerged as a significant hindrance to the adoption of waste management practices. Particularly, this challenge has affected the adoption of recycling as a viable strategy for managing waste. The lack of a developed market to sell recycled products has especially emerged as a “demotivating” factor for many contractors because they could spend a lot of money making recycled products and have no market to sell them.

Therefore, the adoption of an innovative waste management practice has to happen in an environment where contractors and managers of recycling plants see the value in adopting them. Recycling has to make sense to contractors because it takes more time and money using this waste management method as opposed to dumping waste in landfills (Yi & Li 2014). Furthermore, while it is impossible for one contractor, or a group of contractors, to develop the recycling market on their own, it is possible for the government to influence the market by creating the right conditions that would enable it to develop. For example, this paper has shown that some companies are hesitant to use recyclable waste unless they receive financial incentives. The government could offer subsidies to such companies to enable them accept recyclable waste materials for production. By doing so, they would create a demand for these materials. In turn, contractors would see the need to deposit construction wastes with these entrepreneurs and make a profit, instead of dumping such waste in landfill areas and create a bigger environmental crisis.


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Appendix One: Questionnaire

General Questions on Respondents and Area of Research

Please state your name ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ………………

What is your gender? (Tick on the appropriate box)

  • Male
  • Female

What is your highest level of education? (Tick on the appropriate box)

  • Below high school
  • High School
  • Undergraduate Degree
  • Masters Degree
  • PHD

How long have you worked in the construction industry? (Tick on the appropriate box)

  • Less than 5 years
  • Between 5 to 10 years
  • Between 10 to 15 years
  • Between 15 to 20 years
  • More than 20 years

How would you rate your experience in managing construction waste in the industry? (Tick on the appropriate box)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

Research Question: Sources of Construction Waste

Prioritize the construction wastes below in the order of its impact on the environment. (Put a number on the box from 1-5)

  • Metal waste
  • Paper waste
  • Wooden Waste
  • Glass
  • Agriculture Waste

Prioritize the main sources of construction waste in the order of their contribution to the volume of construction waste. (Put a number on the box from 1-3)

  • Refurbishment
  • Renovation
  • Demolition

Who should be responsible for construction waste? (Tick on the appropriate box)

  • Government
  • Contractors
  • Clients

How does your company dispose construction waste? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Minimization
  • Landfill
  • Recycling
  • Reuse
  • Others (please explain) ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ………………

Do you think increased volumes of construction waste would affect the performance of the construction industry? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Yes
  • No

Research Question: Impact of Construction Waste on the environment

Kindly rate the impact of construction waste on the local environment in the UAE (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

How would you rate the impact of construction waste on the marine life? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

How would you rate the impact of construction waste on air quality? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

How would you rate the impact of construction waste on the water supply? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

How would you rate the impact of construction waste on ecological biodiversity? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

Research Question: Ongoing Waste Management Practices

In the order of the most popular waste management processes in your company, rank how you use these waste management practices. Place an appropriate number (1-3) in the order of the most popular waste management method.

  1. Recycling
  2. Reuse
  3. Minimization

What types of waste management programs are ongoing in the construction industry? ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ………………

Which people or organizations spearhead these programs? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Government
  • Contracting Companies
  • Clients

Would you consider these programs to be effective in managing waste from the construction industry? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Yes
  • No

Would you recommend an improvement of any of the waste management programs? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Yes
  • No

Please Explain ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ………………

Research Question: Challenges in waste management

What kind of challenges impede the adoption of effective waste management practices in the construction industry from the list below (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Legal Challenges
  • Market Challenges
  • Geographical Challenges

What is the role of government in supporting waste management practices in the construction industry? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Facilitator
  • Initiator
  • Regulator

How would you rate the importance of stakeholder involvement in managing the waste management problems in the construction industry? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Very Strong
  • Strong
  • Medium
  • Weak
  • Very Weak

Are there any recommendations you could make to improve waste management practices in the construction industry (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Yes
  • No

Please Explain ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ………………

Would you say the construction industry is on the right track in embracing sustainable development practices? (Tick on the appropriate option)

  • Yes
  • No

Please Explain ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ……………… ………………


*Thank you for participating in this survey*.

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