Construction sector leading in waste and recycling

© Hollandse Hoogte / Robin Utrecht
In 2016, the Dutch construction sector generated the highest volume of waste but also used more than half of all recycled materials. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on a revised report about material flows in the Netherlands (‘Materiaalmonitor 2014-2016’), commissioned by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
Recycling of materials for the production of raw input in production processes, contributes to the government target of realising a fully circular economy before 2050. The circular nature of an economy is measured by CBS on the basis of various indicators. This news release focuses on two different indicators: waste production and recycling rates. In a fully circular economy, raw resources (including biomass, fossil resources, metals and non-metallic minerals) and existing products are utilised and, wherever possible, reutilised as efficiently as possible. This may be achieved, for example, by extending the lifespan of products and spare parts, by redesigning of products and by recycling. Both the reduced use of raw resources and waste minimisation will result in a lower environmental impact of economic activities.
In 2016, altogether 245 billion kg of materials were used in domestic consumption in the Netherlands. This is slightly more than in 2014, when the amount used was 241 billion kg. One-third of all these materials were used towards energy production; the remainder was destined for consumption or storage of resources. A portion of the consumed products was thrown away. Of this waste, over 83 percent was recycled in 2016.

Most recycled materials are used in construction

Almost 38 percent of all the materials used by the Dutch construction sector were recycled materials. The construction sector mainly used mineral waste such as rubble, e.g. for road construction. On average, nearly 15 percent of the materials used in production processes across the sectors are recycled materials.
In the use of recycled materials, not only the amount of materials used is important, but also their quality. For example: the demolition of a building produces rubble, which can subsequently be used for road construction. However, salvaged parts of the demolition waste could also be used to construct a new building. The latter form of recycling - where necessary with some maintenance and repair - results in a higher preserved value.

Recycling rates by sector, 20161)
SectorRecycling rate (% of process input)
Textile, timber and paper industries27.1
Building materials11.4
Metal industry9.8
1)Excluding the petroleum industry, mining and quarrying, services, electricity companies, repair and installation, water and waste management.
Out of all sectors, the construction sector also accounted for the highest share of recycled materials (recycling rate). Of all the recycled materials used, nearly 54 percent were on account of the construction sector, followed by the agricultural sector with 16 percent and the food industry with 10 percent. In the food industry, relatively many recycled resources are used in the manufacturing process of oils, fats and waxes as well as animal feed.

Construction produces largest amounts of waste

Nearly one-quarter of all the output (i.e. products and waste) generated by the construction sector consisted of waste. This does not include demolition waste from existing buildings (approximately 11 billion kg). The waste disposal rate across all sectors stood at nearly 11 percent. The metal and food industries both accounted for around 10 percent of waste in their total output.
Top 5 waste-emitting sectors, 20161)
SectorWaste production (% of total output (products and waste) )
Metal industry10.2
Food industry10.1
Textile, timber and paper industries6.7
1)Excluding the petroleum industry, mining and quarrying, services, electricity industry, repair and installation, and water and waste management.

Waste output by the construction sector was higher than in any other sector in 2016: half of the total waste production was on account of this sector. The second largest waste producer is the food industry with 22 percent; third largest is the agricultural sector with 14 percent of total waste production.

The Netherlands has highest recycling rate in the EU-28

The European Commission as well is implementing an action plan for the circular economy, which monitors the progress made by the individual EU-28 member states. In 2016, the Netherlands was reusing relatively large shares of its materials. On the other hand, the Netherlands produced more waste per inhabitant than the EU average. Of all materials which were used, the recycling rate was the highest across the entire EU-28, namely 29 percent.
Recycling rates in the EU-28, 20161)
CountryRecycling rate (% of total use of materials)
United Kingdom17.2
European Union11.7
Czech Republic7.6
Source: CBS, Eurostat
1)Eurostat data were used to compare the Netherlands with the rest of the EU-28. The figures differ from the figures provided in the CBS/PBL report.