How Can We Recycle More Construction Waste?

When you think of recycling your first thought is probably the glass, tins and paper that you put out for your local council to collect. You might even consider recycling old electrical items or furniture from your home. But have you thought about the construction sector?

A recent article for CityMetric explained what steps construction firms could take to ensure that more of the waste that’s produced through the demolition and construction of buildings is recycled.

The news provider noted that 35 billion tonnes of non-metallic minerals are extracted from the Earth every year. It also pointed out that 35 per cent of the world’s landfill is made up of construction and demolition waste (often referred to as CDW).

Steps are already being taken both in the UK and across the EU to make the sector more sustainable, particularly in its approach to waste management. For example, the Waste Directive Framework that was published by the EU aims to recycle 70 per cent of non-hazardous CDW by the end of this year.

The UK government is also focusing on sustainable construction and specifically how CDW can be reused in different settings.

There are many advantages to reusing CDW where it’s safe to do so, including securing the supply chain of construction materials for businesses in the industry and protecting them against unstable pricing.

While this all makes sense, CityMetric noted that there are a number of barriers to reusing more materials in the sector, including that anything that’s used in construction needs to be certified for this use.

“Testing the performance of materials for certification can be expensive, which adds to the cost of the material and may cancel out any savings made from reusing them,” it asserted.

Often, it is not the removal of the waste that presents the problem, but sorting it and ensuring that it’s then suitably processed to be reused. The article argued that introducing a greater level of AI robotic machinery into the sorting process is necessary to help construction firms make improvements to their efficiency in this area.

Pre-demolition audits can help companies determine what materials they can salvage and reuse from a building before it’s demolished. Using robotic sorting technology on site could then help ensure that the different materials are processed appropriately.

“The focus should be on the smart dismantling of buildings and ways of optimising cost-effective processes,” the news provider added.

It concluded that there is “extraordinary potential” in approaching construction in a more sustainable way, particularly in relation to CDW. There are already innovative uses of construction waste cropping up around the world.

For example, Dezeen recently highlighted a start-up in Scotland that has created a brick almost entirely from construction waste. Kenoteq produces bricks that are made using 90 per cent construction waste. The new product is called the K-Briq.

Engineering professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh Gabriela Medero is behind the invention. The news provider revealed that manufacturing K-Briqs generates less than one-tenth of the carbon emissions of producing new bricks.

It has taken Professor Medero ten years to create her innovative product and see it go into production.

She told the news provider why she was motivated to find alternatives to traditional construction materials. “I have spent many years researching building materials and have been concerned that modern construction techniques exploit raw materials without considering that they are amongst the largest contributors to carbon emissions,” she stated.

In addition to producing a fraction of the carbon emissions during their production, K-Briqs provide better insulation properties than traditional bricks. What’s more, they weigh the same and behave in the same way as a clay brick.

Professor Medero also revealed that the K-Briqs can be produced in any colour. She hopes that they will be used in the Scottish construction sector initially, which currently imports the majority of its bricks from England or Europe.

This will further reduce the carbon footprint of buildings in Scotland, as transport from further afield won’t be necessary as K-Briqs are produced locally. This could also result in cost savings for firms that don’t need to pay for bulky and heavy construction materials to be transported from elsewhere in Europe.

Getting assistance with construction waste removal from reputable firms will continue to be important. Working with waste removal specialists in the construction sector will mean that you can rest assured that waste is recycled where possible and that what waste is generated is disposed of responsibly.

Contact us today if you need assistance at a site you’re working on and find out more about our services and how we can help.

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