World Resources Forum: construction as the be-all and end-all of the circular economy

"Construction is the be-all and end-all of the circular economy; we play a role throughout the entire material chain," This was stressed by Marc Dillen, Director-General of the Flemish Construction Confederation (VCB), during the launch of the Green Deal Circular Construction on 22 February at the BATIBOUW trade fair. What makes the Flemish construction sector an indispensable link in circular economy? This question was discussed in detail at the World Resources Forum being held in Antwerp from 25 to 27 February, focusing on the importance of assuring the right quality and traceability as a way of closing the loop in terms of the re-use of construction and demolition waste.

Flanders is already a European leader in the recycling of construction and demolition waste (CDW), 95% of CDW is currently being re-used. The high population density and shortage of building plots in our region play an important role in this regard. Although the level of recycling in Flanders is high, we can still make a lot of extra progress in terms of high-quality applications, as this will further reduce demand for primary materials. At the moment, recycled materials are often used in low-quality applications, a well-known example being recycled granulated materials used in road construction. However, since it is becoming harder to sell construction waste for such applications, the sector is focusing more and more on high-quality re-use. As a result, there have been developments in the re-use of high-quality sieved sand for concrete products, experiments with recycling secondary materials into new bricks, and so on.

Construction and demolition waste management organisation Tracimat and its demolition management system are crucial in ensuring the quality of re-used raw materials and preventing environmental risks. The Tracimat system is in line with the EU's Waste Framework Directive, which calls for the re-use, recycling and/or recovery of 70% of construction and demolition waste by 2020. Moreover, the EU Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol (2016) mentions Tracimat as a benchmark thanks to its approach to demolition monitoring.

The next, crucial step is to carefully track building demolition materials such as PVC, metals, electronics, and so on. This is the final piece needed to set up a complete database of materials present in buildings, and to further optimise the circular economy by meticulously recording the potential of raw materials for future construction projects and for re-use in other branches of industry. Confidence in the selective tracking of construction and demolition waste is key to increasing high-quality applications exponentially.