India's official recycling capacity of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is a meagre 6,500 tonne per day (TPD) — just around 1.3%, according to a new analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Meanwhile, the total C&D waste is estimated to be 150 million tonne, according to the Building Material Promotion Council, but CSE pegs the number at 3-5x more.
The study titled Another Brick off the Wall also 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 so far, as of September 2020. Ironically, at the same time, demand for primary building materials, including minerals, stone, sand, iron ore, aluminum and timber, is growing rapidly in the construction industry.
The report also points out that concrete, bricks and metal waste from construction is choking water bodies, green areas and public spaces in cities. Toxic dust particles from the debris are adding to air pollution, posing risk to people’s health. There are several reasons behind this sorry state of affairs. For one, there is the challenge of finding adequate land for dumping and recycling of C&D waste. Second, there is a lack of awareness among builders and real estate developers. And, most importantly, low involvement of state government agencies when it comes to waste collection and disposal.
According to CSE researchers, 33% of the waste generation can be avoided if architects account for waste mitigation during the design and pre-construction stage. While the government is allocating points to those initiating action on C&D waste, it also needs to push segregation, collection, recycling and reuse. Till then, heaps of construction material will simply continue to be eyesores in the middle of the Indian cities.