Minimizing environmental burden through construction waste management

With evolving lifestyles and standards of living, India has planned to spend Rs. 5.54 Lakh crores this year on the infrastructure industry. This means there will be better transportation, including the construction of roads, flyover, subways, bridges, factories, and other such establishments. But this article is not here to talk about the constructional phase of our country; in contrast; we will discuss the ugly part of such vast development. 

Intense construction activities leave behind a giant ball of C&D waste. India officially generates 150-180 Million tonnes of construction waste every year, out of which only 6,500 tones get recycled per day; the rest are thrown as landfills. The research also highlighted that the actual number might be 35x of the estimated C&D waste. In reference to a recent report published by the Centre of Science & Environment which states that India recycles only 1% of its construction & Demolition waste

This has become a massive issue for our country. We are running out of landfill area, and we must find a strategy that deals with the optimum utilization of such waste. There should be a proper waste recycling framework that educates people about recycling and penalizes them when not followed.

Problems Due to High Construction Waste

  • Loss of resources- Filling construction waste into landfills is similar to throwing away gold in the trash. There are many ways the waste can be recycled to reach its optimum value.  These resources can be further used in other infrastructural projects or sold for commercial purposes.
  • Overuse of landfills- Land is a limited resource that cannot be stretched beyond a certain limit. The overuse of landfills to top up construction waste is coming to an end. We need to switch to an alternative option to maintain the environmental balance.
  • Loss of land- Overusing landfills has resulted in digging up extra land and causing environmental havoc. Buildings need a good amount of space to be built. They cannot be constructed above a landfill, and India’s overpopulation has resulted in the demand for good infrastructure. We have come to a vicious cycle where we need land to live and also to bury the C&D waste. 

Effective Ways to Combat the Problem of Construction Waste in India

So now the question arises, how do we manage the construction waste?

There are several ways we can implement in order to manage the waste. Some of which are mentioned below-

  •  Adapt the three R’s: India needs a strict but simple framework, aiming to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Firstly, we need to take adequate measures to reduce C&D waste to the maximum extent. However, the waste generated then needs to be segregated into different categories. Lastly, we can use some advanced technology to deform the trash into something useful.
  •  Commercial selling: This process is very simple and must be incorporated to deal with such gigantic construction waste numbers. Construction companies should assign a person who can segregate the waste into different chambers so that others who require them for personal/ commercial purposes can easily buy them.
  • Need robust C&D waste management: The government needs to establish some more evident committees that are dedicated in managing the waste. We must build an accessible database of the infrastructural development for every city. Integrating penalties will ensure that the rules are followed and we achieve the targeted results.
  • Identify suitable land for recycling and collection: Before the actual recycling process starts, we need to determine lands that will be used to collect the construction waste. We must use the tiniest space possible to do the recycling activity.
  • Take inspiration from foreign waste management practices: Many countries have adopted a strict high waste tax policy to reduce the burden of landfills and promote recycling. For instance, Denmark, Netherlands, and Hong Kong have integrated aggressive strategies that have significantly reduced their construction waste dependency on landfills.
  • Work on our demolition management strategies: India spends a massive amount building infrastructure but lacks a strong mindset when it comes to demolition. We need to prioritize construction waste management recycling strategies if we want all the above ideas to work.   

Construction waste has undoubtedly become a problem in India due to excessive use of landfills and low recycling rates. However, if we fight stronger, we can build a robust waste management system to overcome our debris production. 

Rashi Jaitly
Author

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