Benefits of using recycled material

Blog post by Jamie Bradbury

The benefits of using recycled materials have become more prevalent in recent years in the attempt to reduce environmental impacts within the building sector. If parts of the existing building are considered for reuse throughout the demolition phase of a construction, it can effectively reduces the cost of procuring new materials and the amount of waste that goes to landfill, in turn reducing the overall construction cost for the client.


Reasons for using recycled materials

The building sector is one of the largest consumers of bio-productive land in Australia. Therefore, clients have to allocate additional costs to cover landfill and supplier fees. However, these costs can be dramatically reduced if certain materials from the existing building were preserved for reuse in the new construction design.

According to Thormark (1999), environmental impacts of using recycled materials in a construction only equate to 55% of the impacts that would have been caused if all materials had been new. Therefore suggesting that not only can the cost of new products be optimised, but also the impacts to the environment by eliminating the need to manufacture new items and transport them to site.


Uses for recycled materials

The majority of waste found on traditional construction projects is generated from the concreting activities and other associated wet trades, constituting over 80% of the construction waste produced (Baldwin, Poon, Shen, Austin, & Wong, 2009).

The hard materials such as rocks and broken concrete represent about 12-15% of all construction waste and can be recycled for construction work as granular materials, drainage bedding layers and concrete application. The non-inert waste such as metal, timber, and packaging waste accounting for approximately 15-18% of all construction waste is either recycled or disposed of in landfills (Jaillon, Poon, & Chiang, 2009).

At Really Group, in order to reduce waste for one of our projects we resourced red gum fence posts from the Campbellfield tip, refurbishing and reusing the wood for balcony cladding and a kitchen island bench in a multi unit development project. Although proven to be a very durable material for buildings, the milling of red gum is now heavily regulated due to endangerment and has thus become a rare resource within the construction industry. Rather than eventuating in landfill, it was the perfect timber for our project.


Benefits of using recycled materials

According to Jaillon, Poon, & Chiang (2009), timber formwork was the major contributor to construction waste, accounting for 30% of the total identified waste. Trades, such as concreting, masonry, plastering and tiling on-site were considered as the second major waste generator, accounting for 20% of the total on-site waste generated.

Via using recycled materials, albeit recycled concrete, timber or bricks:

  • You effectively save the need to procure and consume natural raw materials
  • You in turn save energy, decreasing harmful emissions, and reducing space needed for landfills (Thormark, 1999).
  • You reduce the cost of construction, extending your budget, meaning you spend it on other living requirements.


To see more about what Really Group does to low their environmental impacts, follow the link to look at our REALLY Green initiatives.


Recycled timber

Photos from Essendon Project. Photo Credit: Leon Hadj



Baldwin, A, Poon, C.S, Shen, L.Y, Austin, S, & Wong, I (2009), Designing out waste in high-residential buildings: Analysis of precasting methods and traditional construction, Renewable Energy, Vol. 34, Pp 2067-2073.

Jaillon, L, Poon, C.S, & Chiang Y.H (2009), Quantifying the waste reduction potential of using prefabrication in building construction in Hong Kong, Waste Management, Vol. 29, Pp. 309-320.

Thormark, C (2000), Environmental analysis of a building with reused building materials, International Journal of Low Energy and Sustainable Buildings, Vol. 1, Pp. 1-18.