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‘Hidden success story’: Recycled materials use reaches record high

New research from the Mineral Products Association has revealed that the usage of recycled construction aggregates has reached a record high in Britain.

The new report from the Mineral Products Association, which represents the major aggregate firms in Britain, shows that the total volume of recycled and secondary materials reached a record 73.5 million tonnes in 2022. 

“The substantial contribution of recycled and secondary aggregates to total supply is a huge but largely hidden success story for the industry. Aggregates producers have been recycling suitable construction and demolition waste for years to meet our construction needs as efficiently and sustainably as possible, whilst meeting stringent technical standards,” MPA director of economic affairs Aurelie Delannoy said. 

“As we look ahead, further progress in recycling can be anticipated, supported by the major investments that have recently taken place in the extractive sector. However, it is important to recognise that the availability of recycled aggregates is inherently tied to demolition activity and the availability of suitable waste materials.  

“With increasing demands to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and address key infrastructure and housing needs, primary aggregates extraction will remain essential for meeting the majority of demand over the long term.” 

Total aggregates supply (million tonnes) in Great Britain, 2022. Image: Mineral Products Association (MPA)

In the report ‘Construction Aggregates Supply in Great Britain: Primary, Recycled and Secondary Aggregates in 2022’ the MPA demonstrates that non-primary materials accounted for over 30% of the country’s total demand for aggregates (which stood at 241.8 million tonnes in 2022, the biggest flow of materials in the economy). 

The data illustrates Britian has one of the highest recycling rates in the European region. The breakdown of this figure of this figure showed 60.3 million tonnes of recycled aggregates was compromised of construction, demolition and excavation wastes (CDEW) such as concrete and brick rubble, old rail track ballast and earthworks spoil. Meanwhile, 5.8 million tonnes of asphalt planings were reused in road networks in 2022.  

“Whilst the construction industry may well be the country’s largest source of waste, MPA members have become proficient in recovering materials arising from build development and processing them so they can be put back to good use elsewhere in construction,” MPA’s executive director for planning and mineral resources Mark Russell said. 

“The most efficient way to process and reuse these materials is close to where they are sourced to minimise transport, and the bureaucracy of the planning and permitting system is often a barrier to delivering the most efficient solutions. 

“That said, there are major investments taking place to improve the quality and availability of recycled and secondary materials, giving developers and contractors the confidence to specify them. Even the small amount of soft inert waste that cannot be turned into aggregate is put to good use in quarry restoration and land remediation.” 

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