INTERNATIONAL: Europe Makes C&D Waste Reduction A High Priority

Construction and demolition (C&D) waste is one of half a dozen priority waste streams being ad-dressed by action programs in the European Union (EU). The ultimate objective is to achieve sustainable growth in production and consumption patterns.

The basic principles in-clude prevention of environmental damage, rectification of damage at the source and shared responsibility by all "actors," from producers to users. In-dustry, government and the public are working together to develop environmental policies consistent with other policies.

The strategies will consider the entire life cycle of a product: design, raw ma-terial extraction and production, use, reuse or re-cycling and disposal. In keeping with the EU waste management hierarchy, the strategies will promote waste prevention through technologies and products; recycling and reuse; and optimized final disposal. Program goals are to be reached by the year 2000.

Germany is spearheading the C&D Priority Waste Stream Pro-gram. In 1992, Germany's recycling rate for C&D waste was 31 percent by weight, compared with 67 percent in the Netherlands and 32 percent in Switzerland

Due to diminishing landfill ca-pacity, waste disposal has become a critical issue for the German construction industry, which generates approximately 300 million metric tons a year in all 16 states.

This year's recycling goals, set by the Central Association of the Ger-man Construction Industry, are 60 percent for building demolition de-bris; 40 percent for construction site wastes (see chart); and 90 percent for rubble from road work.

One area of interest is recycling during the renovation, restoration and new construction of building interiors. In 1987 interiors modernization accounted for more than 50 percent of the country's total construction volume for the first time. The trend will continue since more than half of the housing in the former East German states was built before World War II.

The market already offers a variety of recycled products that are comparable in quality to conventional products for building interiors, according to the report. How-ever, there is a strong reluctance to use these alternative products since experience with many of them is still widely lacking.

To penetrate the market, manufacturers and suppliers need to provide samples and detailed information about their products' contents, manufacturing process, costs, installation, performance and disposal requirements.

Neutral indicators of quality, such as the German "blue angel" eco-symbol, also can help overcome fears of substandard quality. This symbol has been awarded to products made from recycled plastics, paper, glass and gypsum from flue gas desulfurization.

Another German waste reduction approach is the direct reuse of ma-terials and even complete components recovered when buildings are renovated or modernized. For ex-ample, doors and door frames, parquet flooring, moldings and grates can be reused. Difficulties include installation methods that complicate removal without damage, a de-mand for larger quantities of matching components than are currently available and warranties.

Materials removed from building interiors can be difficult to sort and reproc-ess because they're heterogeneous and potentially contaminated with hazar-dous substances. Recy-cling-friendly renovation and construction techniques include using products with labels that identify all contents and coat- ings, avoiding composite materials to the extent feasible, minimizing the diversity of materials within a building and avoiding pro-ducts with problematic disposal requirements.

The most urgent need, according to the report, is to apply the producer liability principle to all parties involved. Methods include risk and cost sharing for decontamination and disposal; incentives for producers to take back the residue or meet recycling goals; and even permits that stipulate documentation of the recycling potential and projected disposal costs.