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Quality is crucial in construction waste challenge

More than 90 million tonnes of waste is produced in the UK from construction, demolition and civil engineering projects each year. In Europe, this figure is in excess of 1 billion tonnes.

This volume of CD&E waste represents a huge sustainable resource that is not being utilised to its full potential.

In the UK, approximately 40% of the total C&D waste material being produced is reused as aggregates by the industry.

Yet under the revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD), the European Union is calling on all member states to recycle 70% of CD&E waste material by 2020.

This is relevant from now, with the first review point towards the end of 2013.

The journey has begun and there are a number of barriers we need to overcome to ensure the UK meets those 2020 targets.

There is an urgent need to better understand the waste generation and management activities of the CD&E sectors in the UK and what can now be sensibly achieved.

The last physical survey in the UK of the volumes recycled in this sector was commissioned by the Waste & Resource Action Programme in 2008.

With 2013 being a pivotal date for measuring progress, we must assume that the data that the market is working from is out of date and the actual position may not be as precise as statistics dictate.

The technology for the recycling of CD&E waste has advanced in recent years, and recycled material has become a more valued product.

Allowing increased processing of waste through existing plants is key to meeting the 2020 targets, alongside quicker planning decisions for the construction of new plants.

Planners need to understand that in trying to meet these targets, new permission for additional recycling facilities will be crucial.

Planners refusing or delaying permissions may be seen as procrastinating due to a lack of understanding.

Communicating that the materials recycled from CD&E waste are capable of being processed into higher grade materials and products would certainly create an increase in demand.

Changing the perception of the public, as well as industry, towards recycled CD&E waste would also create a step change in consumption.

Recycled CD&E material deserves a higher position in the value chain as the technology to produce a valued product is now available.

The construction industry in Belgium achieved more than 90% recycling of CD&E waste material, before pushing the boundaries yet again to focus on improving the quality of the product it produced.

It is type of initiative that the UK should be leveraging not only to meet the targets set out by the EU but because we are now capable of producing a premium product.

Processing high status materials from CD&E waste both recycles a readily available waste product and protects dwindling stocks of mined aggregates.

Fast changing technology means that in excess of 95% of CD&E waste can be reused. What is not changing at the same pace is the attitude of the industry.

Planners, architects, specifiers, contractors, as well as local authorities do need to be aware that the standard that can be achieved is of the highest quality.

In fact, is measuring the UK and the rest of the EU Member States by quantity alone just a box ticking exercise? While the initial value in this overall process is diverting material from landfill, the real value should be the ability to create materials of the highest grade.

That is where the UK should set its sights. We have the technology, we have the expertise and if the industry embraces these changes we have higher value products for a readymade market.

The UK will meet the EU 2020 targets and in doing so will produce a far better product than our EU partners, that you can be sure of.

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