We will only meet the revised Waste Framework Directive targets if we change our attitude towards waste and think of it as something usefu, argues Peter Craven.
The revised Waste Framework Directive requires that all EU member states recycle a minimum of 70 per cent of the waste generated from construction, demolition and excavations by the year 2020.
The first reporting towards this target is expected in 2013 and every three years thereafter until 2020. Currently in the UK, approximately 20 per cent of the total aggregate production comes from recycled CD&E material.
The UK may be on course to meet the target of 70 per cent by 2020, but only if the planners provide the required permissions to recycle more material through existing plants in addition to granting permission to build more CD&E recycling facilities.
Appreciate the value of recycled products
But rather than just ticking the box to meet the Brussels initiative, what the UK should be considering is the value of the product produced by this recycling initiative.
“The UK should be considering the value of the product produced by this recycling initiative”
This will only be achieved by changing the attitude towards recycled material, rather than seeing recycling as a way of avoiding landfill costs or meeting sustainability targets. CD&E waste recycling needs to be seen in terms of the opportunity that it represents and the product it can produce.
We now have the technology to recycle CD&E waste into much higher-grade material elevating it up the value chain, which in turn will encourage an increase in demand.
The general perception that recycled CD&E waste is a low-value material is archaic and is limiting its market potential. This material can be turned into a valuable resource that can be used in high-value construction applications, with high-quality recycled aggregate being a complement to virgin materials that should be seen as an alternative and not a replacement.
What we can learn from Europe
In recent years the construction sector in Belgium achieved an impressive figure of recycling more than 90 per cent of its total CD&E waste material.
Not content with having reached such a high percentage, the industry revised its strategy, pushing the boundaries and focusing not just on quantity but on improving the overall quality of the final product. This is how the UK could work towards meeting the 2020 targets.
“The general perception that recycled CD&E waste is a low-value material is archaic and limiting”
CD&E recycling can consistently deliver in excess of 90 per cent recycled material from source CD&E waste that can be reused in construction. Testing has proven the recycled aggregates are acceptable in the mixing of ready-mixed concrete; sharp sand of a consistent quality for screed and concrete can be produced from CD&E waste.
In addition, 90 per cent of the water used in the washing process of CD&E waste can now be recycled, reducing the requirement for fresh water to feed the plant.
The technology may be changing faster than the perceptions of the industry. For the revised Waste Framework Directive initiative targets to be met in not just in 2020 but in 2013, we need fresh thinking and a planning system that is prepared to embrace change.
Peter Craven is head of marketing and sales support at CDE Global