Waste contractor's guide to recycling construction waste

Producing high quality recovered waste materials


When operating a materials recovery facility or waste management site, you should focus on producing high quality, economically viable output materials.

This should enable you to increase the plant's overall efficiency, boost recovery rates and help to attract customers.

The importance of good waste recovery output

You should minimise the amount of output material sent for landfill. This will save money and attract new business from waste producers keen to limit their environmental impact. You will also need to sort the input stream into high quality material outputs.

You should aim to build a reputation for consistent high quality outputs to maintain throughput. For example, ensure that the level of contaminants, such as painted or hazardous treated material in wood destined for energy recovery, does not exceed levels stipulated by the individual power plants.

You can prevent contamination by keeping your site tidy and free of waste materials on the floors and in skips and balers.

When demand is low, material reprocessors favour top quality suppliers, so it is advisable to:

  • regularly check quality at various stages of the process - eg by using digital photography
  • provide a fully supervised audit trail for all material consignments

At the very least, you should note feedback from reprocessors on material quality and, when necessary, improve systems accordingly.

Flexibility in materials recovery

Because material prices fluctuate, your operations should be flexible, eg separate specific materials when prices rise and leave alone when prices fall. However, the rising price of landfill now means that most materials will eventually be worth recovering and recycling.

You should consider alternative transport links such as road, rail and canal when choosing a location for a new plant as it will offer flexibility in managing both inputs and outputs.

Care of output materials

You should bale output materials to make them easier to store and transport, unless you are asked not to by a buyer. Mill-sized bales are preferred by buyers as these can fetch higher prices.

To maintain quality and reduce the risk of contamination, theft and fire - including arson - you should store bales in dry, secure and, where possible, enclosed areas.

Because storage space costs are usually high, you should make sure that onward movement of material is done quickly, particularly as some recyclates will soon start to degrade.

You should regularly check bales for quality and even consider under-floor heating in storage bays to dry certain recyclates.

Energy recovery

It is unlikely that you can recover all materials without energy recovery through combustion as some material may be too awkward to recover, due to factors such as contamination or size.

You can apply for permission for your materials recovery facility to have its own energy from waste equipment, such as gasification and combined heat and power plant - see burning waste.