Virtually Zero – waste in the brick manufacturing industry

13/01/2020 | Written by: Tom Farmer

Virtually Zero – waste in the brick manufacturing industry


The latest statistics reveal that over 52 million tonnes of waste* is disposed of at UK landfill sites every year, 32% of which comes from the construction industry**. UK brick manufacturing however, bucks this trend.  


Within the clay brick industry, the volume of waste per tonne of production is very low. In fact, just 2% of every tonne of bricks produced is processed as waste, the vast majority of which is recycled with just 0.5 kilos of these bricks disposed of into landfill. 


The brick manufacturing industry performs incredibly well when compared to the wider sector. These statistics also reveal a 42% reduction in waste sent to landfill per tonne of production compared to 2016 and, a 59% reduction against the 2011 baseline. 


This is the result of long-term investment by the industry in minimising the amount of waste it generates, and a conscious effort to ensure that any waste that is produced is handled responsibly. UK brick manufacturers continue to invest in new technology and systems that help to improve sustainability in the broadest sense, with over £48m invested in plants and machinery in 2018, taking the total to over £154m in the last 3 years. 


Importantly, UK manufactured bricks are highly durable, boast a long service-life and as such, contribute significantly to the circular economy of our built environment. 


Typical ‘wastes’ associated with brick production can include fired brick waste, paper, wood, cardboard, plastic, refractories, abatement plant residue, as well as obsolete plant and machinery. Wherever possible, these materials are re-used or recycled, for example, by crushing and re-using the waste again in the same process, or as raw material for other products. For some materials such as emissions abatement waste, there are limited options other than disposal. 


Manufacturers of building components, such as brick, have most control over the implementation of circular economy principles at the point of manufacture.  The brick manufacturing industry has placed sustainable development at the centre of its manufacturing process this past decade and, intends to build on these efforts moving forward. 


The Brick Sustainability Report 2019 can be downloaded from