India manages to recover and recycle only about 1 percent of its construction and demolition (C&D)
waste, says new CSE analysis
According to the Building Material Promotion Council (BMPTC), India generates an estimated 150 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste every year. But the official recycling capacity is a meager 6,500 tonnes per day (TPD) — just about 1 percent. What’s more, unofficial estimates of the total waste generated in the country put the figure at three-five times more than the official estimate.
A new analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), released here today at a national online Round Table, has laid bare some of these unpleasant truths about the way the country is managing its C&D waste. Another Brick off the Wall: Improving construction and demolition waste management in Indian cities – as the analysis report is titled – also goes on to recommend a viable plan of action.
Releasing the report at the Round Table, CSE director general SunitaNarain said: “Our study shows that as many as 53 cities were expected to set up recycling facilities to recover material from C&D waste by 2017 – but only 13 cities have done that by 2020. This is unacceptable when the demand for primary building material, including minerals, stone, sand, iron ore, aluminum, and timber, is growing at an unprecedented rate.
She went on to add: “A significant proportion of construction waste can be recycled and reused and brought back to construction to substitute naturally sourced material. This demands a circular economy that can turn C&D waste into a resource. This can help reduce energy intensity and environmental footprints of buildings and infrastructure.”
Speaking at the meeting, AnumitaRoychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE and the head of the Centre’s Sustainable Urbanisationprogramme, said: “Heaps of concrete, bricks and metal waste from construction are choking waterbodies, green areas and public spaces in our cities. Toxic dust particles from the debris are polluting air, at a time when cities have to reduce their particulate pollution by 20-30 per cent by 2024, under the ongoing National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).”
CSE researchers point out that the sorry state of affairs exists notwithstanding the removal of legal hurdles to using recycled C&D material in construction. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has allowed the use of concrete made from recycledmaterial and processed C&D waste.TheConstruction and Demolition Waste Rules and Regulations, 2016 have mandated reuse of recycled material.
Even the Swachh Bharat Mission has recognised the need for C&D waste management. Ranking points for C&D waste management for SwachhSurvekshan2021 have been doubled to 100 points, divided equally between management infrastructure and waste processing efficiency. Cities will need to have a C&D waste collection systemin place; notified charges for C&D services; and segregation of waste in five streams. Under waste processing efficiency criteria, ranking points will be awarded based on the percentage of collected waste that is processed and reused.
Said Roychowdhury: “This recognition by the Swachh Bharat Mission and the C&D Waste Rules offers an opportunity — cities will need strong preparedness for this. Our new study has carried out a detailed analysis of the current C&D challenge as well astechnical and regulatory barriers to implementation of the Rules. It has identifiedstrategies needed to accelerate the implementation of the Rules and market uptakeof recycled material. The analysis is supported by ground-reality checks in multiple cities.”
Need robust estimation and characterisation of C&D waste to design systems for material recovery: Cities need comprehensive assessment and quantification of C&D waste generation, to plan adequate infrastructure and systems for treatment and management. ULBs to some extent have documentedthe quantum of C&D waste dumped in landfills or in locations under their direct jurisdiction. However, a significant portion of the waste is diverted to informal markets and for illegal filling beyond the municipal jurisdiction.
Cities must create easily accessible databases of buildings and their physical and legal attributes. Construction/demolition permits need to be inventorised with associated waste management plans attached. Also, characterisation of the C&D waste is necessary for the management plan, including collection, transportation and storage, processing techniques and technologies used, and products to be manufactured out of recycled waste.The method for quantification has to consider the new-age construction materials that is expanding especially under Pradhan MantriAwasYojana (PMAY) for the affordable housing sector.
Constraintsin finding land for collection and recycling: Nearly all cities are facing the crippling challenge of finding adequate land for collection and recycling of the C&D waste. This is further constrained byoutdated zoning requirements and ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment among citizens. There is additional pressure of real-estate value capture that prevents land from being earmarked for waste disposal. Cities fear loss of revenue. Several cities have begun to consider land from no-development zones or ecologically sensitive areas. For instance, Gurugram’s proposal to build its recycling facility in the Aravalli Hills and Kolkata’s proposal to build it in a wetland were blocked by the respective state environment authorities for violating rules for environmentally sensitive areas. Pune has identified land that belonged to the state government outside the city limit.
Challenge of collection and transport of C&D waste:There is considerable variation in C&D waste transportation practices among ULBs. For instance, the responsibility of transporting waste in Delhi lies with the waste generator. They are required to deliver C&D waste at their own expense to the designated collection points. The ULBs then take the waste to the disposal site. But private and informal transporters are often not aware of collection points. Sometime commuting to those points is uneconomical. Sometimesthey are asked by the caretakersof sites to payinformal usage fee. This leads to litter. Kolkata on the other hand provides on-callwaste collection services. Waste generators are allocated a day and time slot for thepickup, based on payment. This is a better model but also faces the challenge of capacity crunch and the service is not adequately extended citywide.
Concerns about finances and business case: Cities have been found looking for ways to shieldthemselves from any financial liability while implementing the Rules. In some cases,ULBs have proposed that the contracted party for collection and transportation ofC&D waste actually pay the ULB rather than receive a tipping fee for each tonne ofC&D waste. Many have proposed that the recycling facility must share profits fromrecycled products with the ULB. These have deterred development of muchneeded new entrepreneurship in this sector.
Low involvement of state government agencies/departments: State urban departments are supposed to frame policies on C&D waste management,supplementing the 2016 Rules, to help implementation in the local context. In most cases, their engagement has been poor. There has beensome rekindling of interest after C&D waste management has got included in clean air action plans. Moreover, active involvement of state urbandevelopment departmentsis neededfor financial assistance and suitable land identification for establishing wasteprocessing facilities. Alsostate government agencies such as PWD, Housing Development Board/Authority,City Development Authorities, public sector utility companies etc. involved insignificant construction/demolition work need to coordinate with ULBs for properdisposal and buy recycled products.
Lukewarm response from construction industry, low awareness:The NitiAayog’s 2019 C&D waste strategy report notes glaring lack of awareness of the C&D waste rules among the construction industry across the nation. In large projects whereC&D waste management gets incorporated within the environmental clearancerequirement,implementation is a challenge. Incorrect disposal cost Bengaluru heavily during themega-construction of its Kempegowda International Airport. In its first phasethe contractor took advantage of the massive project site and dumped generatedC&D waste on the vacant land meant for the second phase of the project. Now, thecontractors of the second phase are struggling to clean the site.
The Rules stipulate that large projectsshould ideally adopt significant in situ utilisation of C&D waste in their projects,wherever feasible.The Rules make the waste generator responsiblefor managing the waste. But the way this splintered between the developer and third party, there are problem of forged documents to show compliance with C&Dwaste disposal requirementsby project owners as they themselves are not in directcontrol nor have knowledge of waste disposed. Requirements and responsibilitiesneed to be spelled out clearly in all contacting and subcontracting agreements fora project with proof.
Address pricing of recycled C&D waste products:Trust is quality of recycled waste as building material is improving, for instance Central Public Works Department (CPWD), has already adopted guidelines for usage of recycled products. CPWD has used recycled aggregate products in the new building of the Supreme Court in Delhi. But pricing of it remains a big concern. The Ministry of Housingand Urban Affairs has stipulated in many public forums that the cost of therecycled products need to be at par or lower than the corresponding conventionalbuilding material. But in reality recycled C&D waste products are taxed higherthan conventional building material. Currently,conventional aggregates are taxed at 5 per centand manufactured products from the recycled C&D waste are taxed at 18 per cent,making recycled products economically unviable for most customers.GST must be relaxed for C&D waste recycled products,including tiles, paver blocks, bricks, sand and aggregates.
Role of informal sector: The C&D Rules failed to take into account the informal economy and livelihoods attached with C&D waste handling.This reduced the scope of informalsector participation. But nowSwachchSurvekshan 2021’s recognitionof reusing C&D waste without processing has opened up opportunity of involving the informal sector in the formal management of C&Dwaste. This can generatejobs and livelihood.Cities would have to invest way less in C&D waste management infrastructure if they leveraged the existing informal infrastructure.This will allow high-value resource recovery and livelihoodgeneration.
Demolition management: The 2016 Rules classify all building materials, debrisand rubble resulting from construction, remodelling, demolition and reparationwork as C&D waste. TIFAC’s 2001assessment of C&D waste had noted that of all the materials produced in demolition,about 25 per cent from old buildings and 75 per cent from new buildings can berecovered for reuse. Given that demolition is the most prominent waste-generatingactivity, demolition services need attention. ULBs have not developed any system tomonitor and regulate big or small demolition contractors.Some kind of official permit or NOC isneeded for all building demolition. For instance,the Chennai Municipal Corporation issues independent demolition permits toconstruction/demolition contractors.In most cases ULBs issuereconstruction approvals/ demolition. Due to this clubbing ofpermits, data on demolition is very poor. Multiple ULBs have now made it a requirement for ownersor developers to manage their C&D waste responsibly. Lack of any official guidelines on resource recovery during demolition is a major concern.
Preparing for waste management from new generation material: Expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS), styrofoam, plastic spacers,bituminous material and asbestos embedded within new wall assemblies are a recycling challenge. This low-density bulky material, results in high transport cost perunit weight. Thermoplastics (polycarbonate, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC etc.) can be recycled, but just like EPS their recycling involveshigh costs, whereas thermosets (epoxy adhesives) are difficult to recycle. This needs special attention.
Infrastructure projects need to set up their own recycling facilities: DMRC has done so. Concrete can be easily recycled. Butt excavated waste is a challenge. Other infrastructure projects like highway and roadwork find recycling of bituminousmaterial waste challenging. Globally, proactive prevention of waste is undertaken through modification of existing on site construction practices etc.
Poor monitoring and lack of resources: ULBs suffering from chronic shortages in both human and financial resources are hard pressed to monitor, collect and dispose of waste. ULBs also lack access to basic scientific tools for waste estimation and to adequate knowledge support and experience for feasibility planning, tendering and so on. Guidance available for the scheme is weak.
What CSE recommends
Need robust estimation of C&D waste: Cities need comprehensive assessmentand quantification of C&D waste generation, utilization and disposal to planadequate infrastructure and systems for management. Create easily accessible databases of buildings and their physical and legal attributes. Construction/demolition permits need to be inventorised with waste management plans attached.
Characterisation of the C&D waste is necessary for the management plan. This is needed toinformcollection, transportation and storage, processing techniques and technologies used, and products to be manufactured out of recycled waste.
Land identification for collection and recycling: Cities need to prioritiseidentifying land for intermediate collection points and storage of C&D waste instead for a recycling facility. Also need innovative methods to reduce the requirement of land for collection — like providing waste containers to construction sites as part of the building permit as proposed by Pune can be adopted.
Set up transportation system for collection and transfer of C&D waste:Reduce distances to recycling and disposal sites as that adds to the expense. Need dense network of collection points. The cost of the final transportation is paid from the waste-handling fee charged as part of building permit. Cities need to find ways to leverage informal network to cut cost of new infrastructure creation.
Strengthen the governance framework:NitiAayog’s strategy has suggested that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) may empanel suitable expert agencies/consultants who can provide handholding assistance to cities for waste mapping, by-law drafting, and public procurement policy for recycled products to identifying financial assistance. Also link C&D waste management facilitation to fiscal support to states. Develop knowledge, templates, guides, manuals and standards. Focus on minimisation of waste,not only monetisation of it.
Responsibility of the construction Industry: The current system provides no incentive to the construction agencies formanaging their own waste via waste reduction and on-site reuse and recycling.The Rules have created a push by creating a legal requirement forwaste management but the financial drivers are missing. This requires fiscal strategy.
Learn from global practices: In some European countries, high waste tax hasachieved a significant level on C&D waste reduction. High level of landfill taxes inDenmark and the Netherlands demonstrated a low dependency on landfill and ahigh level of waste recovery.Hong Kong has one of the most aggressive C&D waste fee regimes in the world to reduce waste generation in the city. These are combined with stringent in-situ management.
Build confidence in recycled products for quicker uptake:Need strategies to stimulate uptake ofrecycled products. Reduce current high GST rate (18 per cent). Also do quality control of recycled products.
Integrate Informal sector in C&D waste management and disposal: There is aneed to acknowledge livelihoods attached with this waste and it has potential tocomplement the C&D waste management system of the city. Formal integrationcan improve performance.
Mandatory adoption of demolition management strategies: Provide formal recognitionto demolition contractor and develop a register of them. Develop a separate andindependent demolition permit. Encourage deconstruction instead of quickdemolition.
Mandate on-site construction waste management during construction phase: C&D wastemanagement requirement come bundled with the environmental clearance for big projects. Ensure proper implementation.But need a strategy for compliance for the vast majorityof small and medium enterprises.
Advance application of tools for implementation of end-of-life waste recovery, recycling, and circularity: Location-based tools, which are usually GIS enabled, have beendeveloped to provide the location of C&D waste management services. This is applied globally. More efficient waste sorting technologies areneeded. Technologies used for waste recovery, recycling and circularity encompass threeinterrelated methods.
Waste management in infrastructure projects:Agencies will have to develop their own recycling facilities. Roadwork projects require additional technological development forrecycling of bituminous material.
Dust control in construction projects: The planning stageof the project requires identification of dust control impacts; careful programmingof works to reduce dust impacts; identification of dust mitigation measures among others.
Said Roychowdhury: “Environmental and material challenges associated with the C&D problem need urgent and immediate attention nation-wide to recover the material, protect the environment, and for clean air.”
By Ms. Pratyusha Mukherjee, an active Journalist working for BBC and other media outlets, also a special contributor to IBG News & IBG NEWS BANGLA. In her illustrated career she has covered many major events.