The Environmental Protection Agency has issued its first licence to process large volumes of Irish construction and demolition waste. The licence, issued to Panda waste management company, will facilitate its reuse as a product in road construction.
In Ireland, close to zero construction and demolition waste is recycled. Due to the continued classification of these materials as "waste", the only outlet previously available was disposal at "non-hazardous" landfills. Separately, there are persistent environmental problems with the level of illegal dumping of such waste, especially in isolated rural areas.
In 2008, the EU set a target for 70 per cent of construction waste to be recycled by 2020 and such materials are widely used for a range of construction-related applications in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Latvia; all of which recycle more than 90 per cent of such material.
Recycled aggregate – such as sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, and recycled concrete – makes up almost one third of the aggregates used in new-build housing in the UK.
The Construction Industry Federation has repeatedly highlighted that regulations governing these by-products are "confusing and outdated", which makes moving clean soil and stone or crushed concrete extremely difficult, as there are few licensed facilities available to receive these products.
Panda, part of the Beauparc group, collects approximately 100,000 tonnes of this waste stream annually, comprised mainly of crushed concrete, but also containing ceramic, tiles, bricks and stone.
Its licence will allow the processing of this material by crushing, screening, removal and separation to produce a reusable material known as “greenrock” which will be used in the construction of a new road on an EPA-licensed site in Ireland.
Beauparc's renewable energy and sustainability director David Tobin said it was a significant first step in reuse of this material in Ireland and would help towards meet Irish and EU targets for transitioning to a circular economy.
“We are committed to delivering on the circular economy goal of recycling resources and materials and returning them back to the economy to be used again. This is crucial if we, as a society, want to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals,” he added.
People understood that other materials which used to be considered waste should now viewed as a valuable resource, “and we believe construction waste should be no different”.
The creation of new products from construction and demolition waste not only diverts materials from landfill, but “also reduces the extraction of finite aggregates resources from quarries, thereby reducing the impact on the environment”, Mr Tobin said.
In 2017, an estimated 4.75 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste were collected by authorised waste collectors. Waste soil and stones made up 81 per cent of the total. Mixed construction and demolition waste accounted for 8 per cent, and concrete, bricks, tiles 7 per cent.
In a separate “end of waste” application, Panda is building a major recycling facility for plastics which is due to come into operation this year. Most recycling of plastics, where possible, is conducted abroad – though there is limited capacity to recycle plastic bottles in the Republic.
Beauparc employs 2,300 people, processes two million tonnes of waste, supplies more than 55,000 homes and businesses with renewable electricity and generates more than 80 gigawatt hours of electricity from landfill gas.