Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Building and Endangering Urban Landscapes: The Case of Construction Wastes in Bamenda Cameroon

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Building and Endangering Urban Landscapes: The Case of Construction Wastes in Bamenda Cameroon

Article excerpt


Building and construction is an ongoing process in urban landscapes given the available technology, obsolescence in buildings and the need to improve on the urban scenery. This activity is however accompanied by the generation of huge amounts of degradable and non-degradable wastes which if not well managed can constitute an eyesore and a potent danger to the urban population. Construction waste can also be of immense economic benefits to the population and the construction industry because it can be salvaged, recycled and reused. A random sampling of wastes generated at selected construction sites for ten neighbourhoods (two within the Central Business District (CBD) and eight at the periphery) in Bamenda town indicate that construction waste represents large amounts of material such as zinc, wood, iron rods, broken tiles, sand and plastic which is often illegally dumped by roadsides, river banks and building sites. Poor waste disposal/handling methods cause health and environmental problems such as flooding, and pollution in the municipality. While, such waste generate income and provide cheap equipment/material to the population and construction industry through informal recycling and reuse for other purposes, there is need for improved management as part of a growing movement toward sustainable city development due to increasing population and urbanization.

Keywords: building waste, recycle strategy, informal recycling

1. Introduction

Increasing population and the need for improved housing in third world urban areas has boosted the construction industry in terms of materials/equipments demanded and the population employed. This industry also has far reaching its impact on the environment by way of tones of wastes generated. The construction industry is responsible for producing a whole variety of different wastes. The amount and type of such wastes depend on factors such as the stage of construction, type of construction work being undertaken and the overall practices on site ( Approximately 40% of the generated waste globally originates from construction and demolition of buildings (Guilberto, 2007). Waste generation in quantity and variety has increased due to acceleration of urban population growth and increase in spontaneous settlements. Such increase also leads to many informal activities (Achankeng, 2003). Much building waste made up of materials such as bricks, concrete and wood damaged or unused for various reasons during construction can be as high as 10 to 15% of the materials that go into a building. Since considerable variability exists between construction sites, there is much opportunity for reducing this waste (Bogner et al., 2007). According to Ferguson et al. (1995), over 50% of the waste in a typical United Kingdom landfill could be construction waste. Craven et al. (1994) reported that construction activity generates 20 to 30% of all waste deposited in Australian landfills.

Direct dumping of untreated building/construction wastes in rivers, seas, and lakes, result in the accumulation of toxic substances in the food chain through the plants and animals that feed on them (Medina, 2002) which seriously affects the health of residents located closer to dumpsites. Adebayo (2001) reinforces the ideas of Salam Abu (2010) by explaining that waste on construction sites is enormous in most African countries, with dumping taking place in landfills and sometimes with other hazardous material, and in other instances lefton the site, often in the case of smaller construction sites.

Waste Hierarchy places waste management strategies in preference of their prevention potential. The "3 Rs" Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are crucial, as they remain the most important practice of most waste strategies. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste. …

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