Concrete waste is one of the most common everyday sights.
Officially India generates around 150 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste every year. In reality, it may be a lot more. In terms of volume and value, concrete and steel should make up a large part of this waste grouping though we do not have a precise estimate of that.
India produces around 300 million tonnes of cement a year, making it the second largest in the world. The C&D waste we generate a year is half of that volume. Again, all of that is not cement (or steel), but it should give us an idea of the magnitude of the problem.
Concrete waste that is left unrecycled is an environmental hazard (air and water), not to mention the potential safety hazard to the public. While construction activity is picking up, the challenge of dealing with concrete waste will also continue to grow as much in the near term as long term.
The regulatory mechanism to deal with C&D waste is already in place both at the national and State levels. However, we have a lot of catching up to do in terms of creating better awareness about building sufficient recycling facilities. By some estimates the current C&D waste recycling capacity is less than 2 per cent of what is needed. More investment in this area may have to be driven by green cement produced partly with recycled waste.
There is already a growing demand for green cement and concrete products around the world and in India, a strong consumer advocacy will help grow the market. The long-term demand for cement will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years in India. And so will the challenge of concrete waste unless we address it now through innovation/technology, better consumer support and fiscally-backed government policies.
The writer is MD & CEO, Ambuja Cements