Construction and Demolition Waste in Peru - an Interview

Illegal waste dump in Lima

Construction and Demolition Waste in Peru, an Interview with Daniel Rondinel

1. How does the increasing urbanization affect the construction sector and waste management in Peruvian cities?

Urbanization is happening faster in developing countries, or “global south”. Between now and 2060, the number of buildings on the planet will duplicate, with 90% of that growth predicted to occur in developing world.  This will increase demand for construction materials and naturally, will increase the amount of produced waste. One of the main problems is the low capacity of central and local government to deal with this high demand for construction.  

Proper housing deficit is a global problem. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Latin America and the Caribbean, 78 percent of families do not have quality housing. In the case of Peru, it is estimated that the deficit reaches 72 percent of families (Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo 2012). Additionally, the Metropolitan Urban Development Plan (PLAM 2035) estimates that there are still 7.6 million people living in slums. Solving this problem requires a massive construction effort that could seriously affect the environment due to the construction industry’s considerable environmental footprint.

The main problem with construction waste is the high volume that is generated and the way that is disposed, mainly in illegal dumpsites, which are closer to the construction site and charges lower rates than the formal dumps, in other words, in the nearest available open space, that could be an empty plot, a park or a space next to a road, especially in low income districts.

2. What are currently the main challenges for the construction and demolition waste sector?

For the construction sector:

  • Lack of regulations and lack of adequate government control. In terms of legislation, the first step is to eliminate the legal gaps and to regulate the responsibility transfer from contractor to demolition or transport company;
  • Avoid transfering the responsibility for dealing with CDW.  What is happening is that around half of construction companies transfer the responsibility of dealing with CDW to transportation companies.  Once that waste passes the construction site door, they really don’t know (or don’t care) about final waste disposal;
  • Lack of circular frameworks and of recycling options;
  • Informality: Because of the small percentage of on-site reclamation and the high use of informal dump trucks, there is an opportunity to improve waste management with formalization by means of incentives to dump truck drivers, the creation of recycling companies, and proper CDW management by construction companies, thereby emphasizing the monetary benefits of recycling;
  • Illegal activities;
  • Give more value to waste. Create new industries that could truly upcycle the waste.  Create more benefits, rewards, or incentives for recycling companies;
  • To invest in education and capacitation for construction workers, at all levels.  From architects and engineers, to laborers, workers, and foreman. Local governments should organize workshops and incentives for foremen and construction workers. Around 4 out of 5 construction sites need to implement a waste reduction plan, and therefore, it would be very valuable to establish guidelines for its implementation as part of an educational program and legislation;
  • Promote use of recycled or reused materials. There are several technical issues with the use of recycled materials, from structural studies to fire protection, and the cultural barriers are also significant;
  • Promote circular design. Factors such as raw material, construction products used, architectural techniques (design system), and local construction and demolition techniques affect waste composition, but many of these problems could be avoided in the design phase;
  • Separate CDW effectively. Separartion can be done on the construction site or at the disposal site (including recycling/transfer plants). The first option is less expensive; however, it requires an experienced contractor, more space on the construction site, and increased government control due the many sites it should visit. For the second option, the government does not have the burden of monitoring construction sites and a large area is not required; however, the increased transportation and the work and handling capacity are necessary requirements at the disposal site, even more, currently in Peru there are only a few transfer plants and no proper or legal debris dumps are available.

Challenges for the demolition sector:

  • The responsibility for demolition waste is transferred from the building contractor to a demolition or transportation company. Hence, regulations should pay especial attention to the legal liability between them. Governments should provide incentives for separation of  demolition waste and valorization; evidence of proper waste management should be a condition to obtain the building permit.

3. Recommendations for improving the sector:

  • It is recommended that segregation should occur outside the construction site; therefore, the three main obstacles to proper segregation (costs, time, and large area) are solved;
  • Waste tends to reduce as the construction moves forward. Therefore, special attention should be paid in the initial stages of construction (demolition, coarse plastering, and structures and foundation), and inspection should be reinforced during this period;
  • Research can help determine new infrastructure implementation, create jobs or resources for waste transportation, and develop practical policies. It is crucial to continue research regarding the quantification and composition of CDW to exploit discarded resources and establish strategies for reuse, recycling, and appropriate spatial distribution at the metropolitan level and to define CDW as potential generators of economic and social well-being and not as an environmental pollute.
  • Polluters pay principles should be established and applied mainly at two scales. First, at constructors to transport and disposal companies (supervised by local governments), and second, at waste generators or polluters districts to waste recipient districts (supervised by central government). The receptor entity should clearly show that waste was managed correctly. In this scenario, collectors’ communities should prioritize implementing transfer plants and debris dumps because they have an opportunity to establish a recycling industry, thereby obtaining a double economic benefit;
  • Currently there are some companies that are trying to promote circular materials, but they are facing enormous technical, legal and also some cultural barriers (because these materials are recycled, they are taken as less valuable).

Daniel Rondinel: Ph.D. student and Research Assistant at the McGill University School of Architecture. Former Associate Professor of the School of Architecture at the University of Lima where was a Principal Researcher at the Institute of Scientific Research (IDIC). His area of research is related with the sustainability in the built environment from a multiscale perspective, from materials to buildings and cities. 

Image credit: Daniel Rondinel