Evaluating carbon emissions of China’s waste management strategies for building refurbishment projects: contributing to a circular economy

Wenting Ma, Jian Li Hao*, Cheng Zhang, Luigi Di Sarno, Adam Mannis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluates carbon emissions of construction and demolition (C&D) waste generated by building refurbishment, using a life cycle assessment approach through a case study project in China. Three waste management scenarios were developed for a building refurbishment project in the city of Suzhou. Scenario 1 is under the business-as-usual C&D waste management practice in China; scenario 2 is based on the open-ended 3R strategy, which focuses on the downstream impact of waste; and scenario 3 considers both the upstream and downstream impact of waste. The results reveal that the composition of the waste generated from building refurbishment projects is different from construction and demolition projects. In the life cycle of C&D waste management of building refurbishment projects, the refurbishment material stage generates the highest carbon emissions compared to the dismantlement, refurbishment construction, and refurbishment material end of life stages. Scenario 1 produces higher carbon emissions than scenario 2, but the difference is not significant in the whole life cycle of the building refurbishment project, whereas carbon emissions for scenario 3 are significantly less than both scenario 1 and scenario 2. The study finds the reason for this difference is that scenario 1 and scenario 2 are based on a linear economy that relies on unsustainable demand for raw materials, whereas scenario 3 is based on a circular economy that uses upcycled materials to substitute for raw materials and considers waste management from a cradle to cradle perspective. This study fills a research gap by evaluating carbon emissions of different waste management strategies for building refurbishment projects, which are expected to be an increasing portion of overall construction activity in China for the foreseeable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8657-8671
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2022


  • 3R strategy
  • Building refurbishment
  • C&D waste
  • Carbon emissions
  • Circular economy
  • Construction
  • Demolition
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Management
  • Upcycle

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