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Feature: Rock and a hard place

The Wales Environment Trust has launched a programme to reduce the quantity of inert waste being sent to landfill by developing new markets for recycled aggregates.

Funded by the Welsh Assembly Government's Aggregates Levy Sustainable Fund, the new Aggregates Programme offers a free consultancy service to local authorities, civil engineers and waste recycling companies to encourage the use of recycled aggregates in construction projects across Wales.

It will also help to develop new markets by liaising with specifying bodies and procurement officers to gain acceptance of recycled and secondary aggregates as the preferred alternative to virgin materials.

The four-year project was set up in February and
officially launched in July by Carwyn Jones, Minister for the Environment, Planning and Countryside.

"The Wales Environment Trust's new Aggregates
Programme is an exciting and much-needed project," said the minister. "In Wales we have a plentiful supply of inert waste, yet its recycling for use as aggregates is not as advanced as in other parts of the UK."

Although primary aggregates production in Wales has declined from 26 million tonnes in 1989 to just under 20 million tonnes in 2001, there are still large quantities of construction and demolition waste and mineral waste which have potential for use in the aggregate market. While the aggregate levy, introduced in April 2002, has encouraged some substitution of primary materials, research has shown that overall demand for aggregates does not fluctuate according to price as the construction industry needs aggregates to function.

Shortfall

Both secondary and recycled materials are exempt from the aggregate levy of £1.60 for each tonne of primary aggregate supplied, but taxation alone will not divert sufficient material from landfill. The new Aggregates Programme is expected to make up the shortfall.

Of the five million tonnes of construction and demolition waste and soil arising in Wales in 2001, only 31% was recycled for aggregates use, with a further 13% reused at licensed landfill sites for site engineering works. The remainder was used to backfill quarry voids, or tipped at landfill or exempt sites.

"The Welsh Assembly Government welcomes these latest efforts to develop new markets for recycled aggregates and hopes to see a marked increase in the use of recycled aggregates in future construction projects across Wales," said Jones.

Speaking at the launch of the project, Steve Bentley, founding director of the Wales Environment Trust, said: "Historically, Wales has not been at the forefront of recycling opportunities due to the high availability of cheap primary materials, but the escalating landfill tax and the aggregates levy now makes recycling a much more viable option.

"Recycled aggregate is regularly used in high-profile contracts in other areas of the UK, so there is no reason why its procurement should not be the first choice whenever it is commercially viable."

Although the Aggregates Programme will not offer funding to stimulate diversion or market growth, it has already put into action a scheme to link local authority and utilities company specifiers with recycling companies. The programme's business development manager, Graham Bishop, cites communication and partnerships as the key to increased specification and diversion.

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