Worldwide, there is a growing level of interest to develop sustainable cement-based products and processes in which the usage of natural resources such as sand and limestone are reduced from the current levels. One of the ways to achieve this is by replacing them with suitable inclusions of recycled granular materials from municipal wastes where possible. However, to understand the effects of such inclusions in concrete structures, research advancements are needed to sense and characterise the distribution of stresses (/strains) at the local scale and to establish their links with the fracture and bulk strength characteristics under external loading environments, which is the focus here. In this research, polyethylene (PE)-based granular materials derived from municipal wastes and fly ash obtained from the incineration of municipal solid wastes are used together as secondary raw materials in preparing the concrete mixtures. Photo stress analysis (PSA) is performed here, making non-contact and whole-field digital measurements of maximum shear stress distribution and the directions of the principal stresses at any point of interest on the surface of the samples under external loading. Their links with the fracture toughness and flexural strength of the samples cured at different times are presented. The novel PSA-based stresssensing helps to establish new understandings of the strength characteristics of composites across scales in the applications involving recycling and reusing conventional wastes and possibly in otherengineering applications in the future.