Hazardous Waste challenges for demolition contractors

Nowadays, sustainable development and ecological politics are very relevant in the work of the companies that are in the construction or demolition industry. In addition, waste management and particularly hazardous waste management is becoming a big challenge for any type of company.

Before any project begins, waste audits are done in order to detect any kind of waste, specially focusing in the hazardous ones. The removal of those hazardous wastes is very regulated, bringing a lot of constraint to contractors and really affecting the industry businesses.

Asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mercury, heavy metals, etc. are all good examples of hazardous wastes.

“Hazardous Waste challenges for demolition contractors. An European overview” is a report that invites professionals to take a look on hazardous waste management issues in other countries.

The main part of this report is the part concerting “Asbestos”, its regulatory framework, the constraints due to it, and how each country manages with this.

The report also approach how each country manages with its most usual hazardous waste and the constraints it could generate; and how the discovery of “X” hazardous waste could affect the demolition waste management.

Two main associations run the European Demolition World: EDA and EDI. The European Demolition Association, EDA, is the leading platform for national demolition associations, demolition contractors and suppliers.

On the other hand, the European Decontamination Institute, EDI, is the leading platform for national decontamination associations, decontamination contractors and suppliers.

Each national association member of EDA (European Demolition Association) has approximately the same tolerance levels for each hazardous waste but the most problematic ones are different in each country because of the legislation.

The preparation of a demolition worksite is very different when you must handle with hazardous wastes, since they could affect the health of the employees and their labor conditions.

If we speak about the European field, we must mention the work performed by EDA and EDI. There is a continuous exchange between these two associations and its members and the rest of the European countries. This allows everyone to be part in the development of the demolition industry.

The European regulatory framework imposes to all the countries precautionary principles and limit value, but they are free to tight those principles. The last relevant document was the Council Directive 2009/148/ EC regarding the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos.

So, the demolition European industry must deal with a lot of regulation concerning hazardous wastes, must take part into the circular economy, mechanize a maximum of tasks, etc. This industry represents between 25-30% of all the waste generated in the European Union.

The demolition European industry has many specialized equipments: companies specialized in the use of one specific and companies that integrate the use of those equipment in their services.

This industry also has major risks linked to fall height, structure collapse, machine failure, simultaneous work and, circulation and flow problems.

Hazardous wastes are residues generated by the industrial activities that represent a significant risk for human health or the environment and require a special treatment. Within the EU, hazardous wastes are classified thanks to their property and a code for each one such as HP1-Explosive.

It provides additional labelling, record keeping, monitoring and control obligations from the waste producer to the final disposal or recovery. Moreover, mixing hazardous substances is completely banned in order to prevent risks for the human health and the environment.

Because of that, the permit exemptions that must be granted to installations that deals with hazardous wastes are more restrictive than for those installations that must deal with other wastes.

Demolition contractors usually face hazardous wastes issues during their works, usually generated by a past industrial site activity. Major types of sites that generate such pollution are refinery (oil, solvent, etc.), petrochemical (petroleum, kerosene, diesel, etc.), nuclear and medical sites.

The most encountered pollutants are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), asbestos, PCB, fluorescent, hydrocarbons and waste oil, paint and solvent, batteries and radioactive waste, etc.

POPs are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the foodcycle and increase threats to human health and the environment. After the Conventions in Basel and Rotterdam, the one that took place in Stockholm is the latest and strictest concerning these substances. It was effective in 2004, with 180 members and 152 signatures.

The Stockholm Convention banned an initial list of pollutants called ‘’the dirty dozen’’ and they included measures destined to reduce and eliminate their emissions and discharges. Now there are 22 POPs in that list.

In that sense, both demolition contractors and people handling hazardous waste issues must follow the rules set by the ‘’European Agreement concerning the

International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road’’ (first applicated in 1985 and whose latest update was in 2017). The list of hazardous waste and its regulation is currently being updated in the EU.

The situation in each country is the following one:

  • Belgium: The national association is CASO (Confederation of Demolition and Demolition Contractors). Hazardous waste management is handled at two levels: federal and regional. At the federal level, efforts are focused on protection of workers, public health and work wellbeing. While at the regional level, waste and environment with different procedures and regulation for Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. When demolition contractors faced hazardous waste, they need a special permit to perform their work, the “Environmental Permit”, the same one when they are removing asbestos. For the classification and labelling, requirements come from European settlements are implemented into the AGRBC of 25th April 2020 law.
  • Denmark: The national association is Dansk Byggeri. Denmark was the first country where asbestos use was banned, and its regulation doesn’t change from the European. Asbestos is dealt with waste management and soil contamination Environmental Law. Danish legislation is based on the polluter pays principle. According hazardous waste, demolition contractors mostly faced PCBs, Tin and Mold. Denmark has transposed the entire European Waste Framework Directive into its national law.
  • Finland: The Finnish Demolition Association (FDA) is a union of dismantling companies operating in Finland. Producing, placing on the market and using asbestos and products containing asbestos, with few minor exceptions, has been prohibited in Finland since 1994. After Asbestos, PAH is the most encountered Hazardous waste in Finland. Like Denmark, this country has implemented all the requirements from the European Waste Framework Directive into national law and follows European law in everything related to hazardous wastes.
  • France: The French Demolition Association (SNED) has a historical key role in the profession in France. It is also the strictest country in Europe regarding asbestos removal. This activity is surrounded by a lot of codes, rules and certification. The most encountered hazardous wastes in France are “Polluted Soils” and “Lead” (except asbestos). When French demolition contractors must face hazardous wastes, they must follow 5 different regulations.
  • Germany: The Deutscher Abbruchverband Ev (DA) is the German Demolition Association. The German regulatory framework for asbestos removal is one of the strictest. A possible explanation may be because Germany is one of the pioneer countries regarding asbestos removal, they have started to remove asbestos in the late 1949 before a final ban in 1993. In Germany, hazardous waste issues and regulations are handled at the Federated States level. The most encountered hazardous wastes are “Artificial mineral (KMF) and “PAH” in parquet adhesives.
  • Italy: NAD is the national Italian demolition association and is very new, created in 2003. Asbestos removal regulation framework is not that different from the European Regulation. Italian asbestos removers have to manage with schedule, additional waste management and specific training that asbestos bring to their business. Hazardous waste management is under the responsibility of the regions, but all the requirements come from the European legislation that was implemented into national law in general.
  • Spain. The Spanish national association is AEDED (Demolition, Decontamination and Sawing and Drilling Association). Spain is one of the last countries that have banned asbestos and the regulation is more leniently than in other countries. In Spain, the regulatory regime for waste is stablished in a national level and the country has developed a National Plan for Waste Management, integrating the European policies. Some of the most encountered hazardous wastes are gases form air conditioning, asbestos, lead, batteries, combustible waste and oils or paints ands solvents. Each of these types of hazardous wastes has a different flow of management.
  • Sweden. The Swedish association is BFB (Industry Association for Building Preparation). Sweden is the second European country where asbestos was banned. However, due to the large quantities imported before its prohibition and duration before the disease appear after inhalation, asbestos still causes some death. When it comes to hazardous waste, the responsibility is regulated by the Environmental Code, the Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance and the Municipal Waste Regulation Ordinance, everything in accordance with the European legislation. Most encountered Hazardous waste in Sweden are PCBs.
  • The Netherlands. VERAS is the Dutch industrial association for demolition and asbestos removal The Netherlands had a sizable post-World War II asbestos industry having one of the highest rates of asbestos victims per capita in the world. For this reason, asbestos was banned in 1993. The Netherlands is one of the leading recycling countries. Wherever possible, hazardous waste is converted into new raw materials or energy. The management of hazardous waste in the Netherlands is under national responsibility but the main requirements are closely related to the European legislation.
  • United Kingdom. The British association is the NFDC, the National Demolition Association. NFDC has the most powerful voice in the demolition industry and has championed the standards and professionalism for more than 75 years. The United Kingdom is one of the most pedagogue country regarding asbestos risks, works and methods. Asbestos removal represents an important issue for the local authorities. Hazardous waste management is under the UK Competent Authorities and are different from a region to another: Environment Agency in England, Scottish Environmental Protection Natural Resources in Wales and Northern Ireland Environmental Agency. In general, all the requirements come from the European Waste Framework Directive.

NOTE. This article was written by: Mr. Patrick Frye


Access the full publication here:

Help us grow!

If you have any suggestions about these contents, find any error or would like to make us aware of anything, please fill out the form below.

To contact EDI, please fill in and submit the following form.

By submitting the form, you will automatically receive an e-mail with a copy of your request