Circular Economy

Global symposium calls for circular economy approach to C&D waste

Delegates from all over the world attended the Circular Driven Economy Symposium, which took place on September 18-19, at Radisson Blu Edwardian, in London, to learn more about the opportunities in recovered construction and demolition (C&D) waste.

With C&D material being the largest waste stream by volume in the EU (representing one-third of all waste produced) and with targets for EU countries to recycle 70 per cent of C&D waste by 2020, recycling was very much high on the agenda for discussion.

In many countries around the world the production of aggregates is currently carried out in a linear process. This means the natural resource is extracted, used and disposed of. There is little thought given to reusing the resource, but by adopting a circular economy approach, businesses can recycle and reuse aggregate products that would otherwise be seen as a waste product.

Egil Velde from Velde and professor Marios Soutsos from Queen’s University Belfast presented some excellent examples of the circular economy in action in the construction industry. By embracing new technologies and spotting the opportunities in recycled aggregates, they believe the sector can surpass the EU target to recycle 70 per cent of C&D waste.

The biggest challenge in the short-term is the diversion of C&D waste from landfill. As already highlighted, C&D waste accounts for one-third of all waste in the EU, so the main focus for EU countries over the coming months and years needs to be reducing this number and diverting from landfill.

Waste recycling plants such as the recently opened Brewster Bros. in Scotland, the Sheehan Group in the UK, and Velde in Norway are leading the way when it comes to collecting, sorting and recycling waste material.

Another key obstacle to overcome in the recycling industry is the need to change the mindsets of many in the sector and educate future generations on the value of recycled aggregates. This means approaching projects with a design for deconstruction mentality, ensuring that all construction projects have an ongoing lifecycle that includes the reuse of materials at the end of a structure’s life. This will ensure a more sustainable approach to construction projects where recycling is a key component and waste is no longer part of the thought-process.

As Mark Tomlinson of LafargeHolcim highlighted from his presentation, most construction recycling today takes place in city centres. This presents opportunities for the production of recycled aggregates, as many primary aggregate suppliers are located outside cities.

For construction companies working on projects in large urban areas, considering recycled aggregates for non-structural elements of a project can provide social, economic and environmental benefits, and must be considered more.

The urban challenge was further highlighted by professor Soutsos, who used the city of Liverpool as an example of both the challenges and opportunities that exist in large cities. With no quarries near the city, construction materials are often transported over a long distance and sometimes from outside the UK to be used in projects in the city. This means a higher price is paid on aggregates, while the longer journey for haulage companies will have an environmental impact.

Professor Soutsos pointed out the solution to this is the ‘urban quarry’ – demolished buildings that present an opportunity for valuable recycle aggregates. One such organisation that professor Soutsos has experience working with during his time at the University of Liverpool was Widnes-based Grundy & Co, who produced and supply their own recycled products for use on city-based construction projects.

The partners involved in organising the symposium – AF Gruppen, CDE, the Sheehan Group, SINTEF and Queen’s University Belfast – have confirmed the event will take place again in 2019. Planning is underway and a date, venue and theme will be announced soon.