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Builders scramble for space to dump construction rubble

Builders scramble for space to dump construction rubble

2 min. 26.01.2022 From our online archive
Lack of landfill capacity likely to lead to work being halted, putting projects at risk, warns country's federation of construction firms
One of Luxembourg's many building sites
One of Luxembourg's many building sites
Photo credit: Chris Karaba

By Marco Meng and Heledd Pritchard

A lack of landfill sites across Luxembourg is leaving building firms at risk of being forced to bring projects to a halt, the head of the country's federation of construction companies said on Wednesday.

Building firms simply have nowhere to deposit all the soil and rubble they remove in the course of their work, said Roland Kuhn.  

“We have now reached a point where we can no longer work," said Kuhn. “The first construction sites will soon have to close and the employees there will have to be sent on short-time work."

There are currently around eight landfill sites dotted across Luxembourg, but around 15 are required to deal with the backlog, the federation estimates.

Around 30,000 tonnes of debris are collected in the country every day but existing landfill sites only have capacity for 20,000 tonnes.

At a construction landfill site in Colmar-Berg in central Luxembourg, trucks often queue all the way down to the main road, blocking traffic. The Colmar-Berg site takes in most of the country’s debris due to its daily capacity of up to 10,000 tonnes.

Another landfill site in Gadderscheier in the south west can only take in 3,000 tonnes because it does not have a permit to receive more, although it has enough space to accept 10,000 tonnes a day.

"There is only one solution," Kuhn told the Luxemburger Wort. "And that is to expand the landfill in Gadderscheier."

However, construction companies, communes, the environmental administration and the Economy Ministry have been in discussions for three years, he said, without arriving at an agreement.

Ramping up costs

The building site where a new hospital, Südspidol, is being built in Esch-sur-Alzette produces several thousand tonnes of rubble. Builders drive the debris from the south – not far from the Gadderscheier landfill –to Colmar-Berg, some 45 minutes away, when there is no traffic.

From an environmental point of view, it makes no sense to transport excavated soil that far, said Christian Thiry, building contractor and chairman of landfill operator Recyfe, which operates the landfill in Colmar-Berg. 

It also ramps up construction costs because workers are spending additional time on the road. Affordable housing, which is in demand across the Grand Duchy, and higher construction costs are at odds, in particular when construction costs increase due to sheer lack of space to store soil. 

“When excavating for a sewer, for example, you need 10 minutes to load the truck,” Kuhn said. “Then the truck goes to the landfill. Usually the truck is back in an hour, and in that time the other workers lay the pipes. Today that truck can take up to five hours to come back.” 

Up to 80% of building rubble in the country comes from work in the public sector, such as construction projects on roads, bridges and the tram line.

"We have to solve the problem immediately, and that can only be done by expanding the Gadderscheier landfill," said Kuhn. 

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