According to the Commission, about 450-500 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste (C&DW) is generated every year in Europe, at least a third of which is concrete. Nevertheless, only around a third to two thirds of the C&DW generated is recycled. This low recycling rate is not due to technical difficulties - it’s market realities. Against this backdrop the European Commission has embarked on several initiatives to analyse and improve construction and demolition waste (C&DW) recycling rates across Europe, and has published its Protocol on C&DW Management and Guidelines for the waste audits before demolition and renovation works of buildings. In its 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission further identifies construction materials as an area of focus in the coming years.
Concrete can be 100% recycled after demolition. Recycling concrete from C&DW offers two main benefits: it reduces our dependence on primary raw materials and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill. There are two main ways in which recycled concrete is reused:
- As a recycled aggregate in new concrete
- As a recycled aggregate in unbound applications such as road construction and earthworks.
The choice of application should be based on the optimum balance of sustainability, local availability and long-term technical performance. A third route for recycling concrete under development is the use of the fine particles from crushed concrete as a secondary raw material in clinker production. In our view two of the key issues which need to be tackled are: the lack of efficient sorting and collecting of C&DW, combined with an insufficient demand for, and confidence in, recycled materials. These aspects are two sides of the same coin. Often, the infrastructure is not in place to allow for quality recycled materials to reach a potential client in a cost-efficient manner.