31 October 2014

Thematic lunch on recycling concrete C&D waste a - resounding success!

Thematic lunch on recycling concrete C&D waste a - resounding success!

On 27 October, stakeholders gathered in Brussels for the first in a series of thematic lunches organised by The Concrete Initiative.  The debate centred around recycling concrete construction and demolition waste, focusing on ways of bridging the gap between what is technical feasible and the policies which are required.  This event comes at a very relevant time, given the recently launched Communication on resource efficiency opportunities in the building sector.  Participants included representatives from both the environment and enterprise Directorates General of the European Commission, as well as the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands, the European Demolition Association and experts in the field of concrete recycling from industry and academia.  Various avenues were explored, providing plenty of food for thought as the EU moves forward with its proposals put forward in the Communication.

One of the main points tackled was barriers to and drivers for recycling.  All agreed that whilst it is essential to divert construction and demolition waste (C&DW) from landfill, demand for recycled aggregates should also be incentivised. A lack of professionalism was identified as a barrier, given that it encourages a poor perception of recycled aggregates.  Implementation of a suitable framework to ensure a level playing field within the industry which encourages all actors to apply the same rigorous standards could partially resolve this issue.

Another point requiring further reflection is the idea of imposing a benchmark based on recycled content. Experts suggested that applying a target at the building level, rather than on the construction products themselves, could offer greater flexibility.  Nevertheless, it is also important that high-value or high-impact materials are recycled. A new idea suggested was value-based targets, whereby contractors and designers would be encouraged to reflect upon more innovative solutions, adapted to local availability and needs.

The experts agreed that it is important that the push for concrete recycling takes location into consideration.  In certain instances, recycling requirements can have a negative impact if there is no recycled material available locally.  For example, transporting recycled concrete aggregates across long distances can be more detrimental to the environment compared to concrete produced with locally available aggregates. As such, consideration should be given to the local availability of materials, rather than a minimum recycled content.  Finally, it was noted that C&D waste coming from refurbishment is another area which needs to be addressed.

The Concrete Initiative extends a big thank you to all participants for providing both industry and policy-makers with plenty of positive ideas to be taken forward!

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