Circular economy

Circular economy: hard times for green constructions

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In spite of a few excellent examples like the Juventus Stadium, Italy recycles as low as 9% of its construction waste.

Circular economy starts (also) from construction sites. This is the outcome of a report by Legambiente’s Recycle observatory on the challenges faced by the construction sector. A renewed development of the sector would allow to reduce its impact on the ecosystem and at the same time to create jobs and opportunities for applied research. This is concretely possible, as proven by numerous examples of buildings and infrastructures built with recycled materials: The Juventus Stadium and the Palaghiaccio in Turin, the Council House in Melbourne, the building of the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. Further Italian examples are the asphalt made of recycled rubber in Val Venosta, the recycled aggregates used in the highway of Mestre, and the logistics platform of the ware distribution centre of Fiumicino.

Today there are no technical, performance-related or economical reasons that impede using recycled materials in constructions. On the contrary, using such materials offers interesting opportunities in terms of employment and business. Moreover, it allows to reduce quarry mining: recycling 70% of the current construction waste would generate 23 million tons of materials, enough to close down at least 100 sand and gravel quarries for one year. Finally, the use of these materials would allow to decrease the emission of greenhouse gas. For example, if the current amount of recycled and reused end-of-life tires were doubled by 2020, it would be possible to re-asphalt 26,000 km of roads. The energy savings obtained by not using any more petrol-derived materials would amount to 400,000 MWh, the equivalent of 2 years of energy consumption in a city of 170 thousand inhabitants. The CO2 emissions would be reduced by 225,000 tons.

A negative aspect of the current situation is the lack of precise data on the waste produced by construction and demolition businesses. Many Italian regions have no control system and no organised recycling chain, and in addition to that, illegal disposal is still quite high: according to Eurostat, Italy recycles as low as 9% of its construction and demolition waste.

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