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Embracing the circular driven economy in construction

Almost one-third of Britain’s construction aggregates are from recycled and secondary sources, a new report by the Mineral Products Association has confirmed.

The study titled ‘The Contribution of Recycled and Secondary Materials to Total Aggregates Supply in Great Britain – Estimates for 2021’ hailed the process of recycling construction waste to produce recycled aggregates as a “success story”.

It reported that recycled and secondary materials accounted for nearly 70 million tonnes of the 253 million tonnes of construction aggregates used in Great Britain in 2021. The latest figures place Britain among the top recyclers of construction materials in Europe.

The figure is an increase on the 62 million tonnes of recycled aggregate used in 2020. However, it still broadly represents just under one-third of the total used in the industry.

Circular Driven Economy

Chris Sheehan, managing director of the Sheehan Group, said: “This is a fantastic success story for the circular driven economy and helps send the message that recycling is crucial to becoming truly sustainable.

“However, there is huge room for improvement and stronger buy-in at policy level and the introduction of tax breaks for recycling would help more contractors embrace using recycled aggregate.

“The data also includes excavation waste and recovery includes backfilling, rather than fully restorative recycling, so there is still scope for further improvement there too.

“I’d like to see a clear vision for the construction industry to fully embrace sustainable products and materials to ensure we become carbon neutral by 2050. Key to real success will be reducing the burden natural resources and landfill and repurposing much more C&D waste back into the supply chain.”

Recycled Aggregates 

Aurelie Delannoy, MPA director of economic affairs, who produced the report, said: “Heavy-side construction materials producers have become adept at making efficient use of available resources, producing recycled and secondary aggregates that meet stringent requirements for use across different construction sectors.

“Taken together with the restoration of mineral extraction sites to beneficial after use – principally nature conservation – our industry is delivering sustainable environmental results whilst others just talk a good game.

“The absence of regular data monitoring about material arisings and their use make it challenging to track the industry’s continuing progress and can fuel wider misunderstandings of the industry’s role in construction, both in terms of primary resource needs and the potential for greater use of materials that are either recycled or from secondary sources as part of the sector’s contribution towards green growth.”

Mark Russell, executive director at the MPA, said: “The contribution of recycled and secondary aggregates to total supply is an outstanding circular economy story that supports the UK’s green industrial revolution, the delivery of government infrastructure and housing ambition, and the resilience of the UK construction supply chain by promoting a diverse source of supply.

“Aggregates producers are recycling all available materials, and have been for many years, to meet our construction needs as efficiently and sustainably as possible. However, it is important to stress that primary aggregates are still needed to meet over 70% of total demand, a situation which will continue for the long term.”