by Integrated Materials Solutions (IMS)
Circular thinking has been gaining considerable traction over the past 10 years. Ellen McArthur’s 2015 TED talk “the surprising thing I learnt sailing solo around the world” explains the key principles that underpin the concept. She became convinced of the need for a system change from the linear model of “use and dispose” to a circular approach in which business models, products and materials are designed for use and reuse. Inspired by Cradle to Cradle, she saw circular design as replicating nature, where nothing goes to waste and everything has a value. The idea is now is at the heart of sustainability solutions. Most recently, it has been incorporated into the European Green Deal which includes a new circular economy action plan. With growing support for the circular approach, there is now an exciting opportunity to embed the principles of circularity in Irish development plans.
Key to circular economy thinking is the intelligent design of circular systems. In 2020 IMS, an Irish construction waste management and resource recovery company, collected over 3,000 tonnes of concrete waste from a Dublin Airport critical runway taxiway project which was constructed by Balfour Beatty. They used the waste in the production of Greenstone, a NSAI certified aggregate made from recycled construction waste. Following a detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and independent verification, Greenstone recycled aggregate have been certified to have a carbon footprint of only 5% of virgin aggregates. The results of the LCA have been used to produce a certified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which is registered under EPD Ireland. Concurrently, IMS supplied 7,000 tonnes of Greenstone back to Dublin Airport for use as subbase in their new runway. The same trucks that removed the construction waste were used on the return journey to deliver the aggregate, saving over 300 truck trips and associated emissions. This highlights not only the huge potential for construction waste to be repurposed and used again in infrastructure projects, but the added efficiency of the returning trucks delivering the recycled aggregate illustrates the principle of circularity at work.
Circular thinking has the potential to radically transform how we deal with construction waste in Ireland. IMS was the first Irish company to receive an End of Waste decision from the EPA to recycle construction waste into aggregate for reuse in roads and civil engineering projects. Recycling concrete not only diverts useful material from landfill but also reduces the volume and associated environmental impacts of new extraction of virgin aggregate (recycled aggregate has a carbon footprint 95% less than virgin aggregate). In addition, it turns what was previously considered waste into a resource. This opens the door for the huge potential to reclaim high-quality resources in construction waste. IMS plans to build their circular products business by adding waste types for recycling and expanding the range of products they produce.
A recent report from the European Advisory Agency notes that although there is a 70% recovery rate (including backfill operations) on construction materials in Europe, there is still much that can be improved. This is particularly true when it comes to recycling of materials so they can be reused as opposed to recovery through backfilling which takes materials out of the reuse loop and their embodied carbons are lost. The report recognises that circular initiatives, such as information sharing, have significant potential to achieve high quality recycling. An exciting example of information sharing is the Excess Materials Exchange who have set up a dating site for building materials. They use blockchain to create a unique Resource Passport which contains data about the composition and origin of the material. They then match the resource, using artificial intelligence, with projects that are able to reuse it. The success of platform such as Ebay and Depop in finding buyers for obscure second-hand goods, suggests that there is an exciting future for disused building components to be repurposed and reused, potentially creating further circular systems in construction.
Heads up from IGBC:
If you’d like to learn more about the Circular Economy join our free webinar series Building Circularity*, sign up to our Circular Economy in the Built Environment course mail and receive four easy-to-read emails, see the Resources and Circularity section of our Learning Hub, see our 2018 report Towards a circular economy in construction and visit www.igbc.ie for further information.
About IMS: Integrated Materials Solutions (IMS) are specialists in the management of construction and residual wastes. IMS operate the only engineered landfill in Co. Dublin (formerly operated by MEHL) under EPA Waste Licence W0129-02. The site accepts a range of waste types for disposal and recovery. Our expert staff are on hand to ensure our customer’s waste management requirements are met in a compliant and economic manner.
|* The webinars are part of CircularLife project, funded by EPA Green Enterprise|