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Waste materials are an underused resource in the construction of Europe’s roads

March 23, 2017

Waste materials are an underused resource in the construction of Europe’s roads

Recycled waste material could play a major role in the construction of roads in Europe, bringing both environmental and economic benefits. A new study proposes a scenario where 50% of the asphalt for Europe’s roads consists of recycled materials, leading to significant reductions in costs, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the European Waste Framework Directive, there is a need to promote reuse and recycling, which are the preferred options to disposal or incineration of waste. However, there need to be clear pathways for that recycled waste to take. One such pathway is reuse in the construction and renovation of Europe’s road network. Europe’s road network is the key component in its transport infrastructure, and as such it requires constant maintenance; every year 4.7 million kilometres of new road are built.

Waste is already used in road construction. This study suggests that the input of recycled materials in road construction can be increased, with the potential for both economic and environmental benefits. The researchers assessed certain waste materials as substitutes for virgin raw materials that normally form the basis for new roads.

These waste materials, which include glass, asphalt, concrete, wood and plastics, were considered appropriate substitutes because they demonstrate comparable performance to traditional materials and are available in large quantities, with effective systems in place for their collection. In addition, there are no alternative applications with higher value for these waste materials, and they are too expensive to dispose of by traditional methods such as incineration. Part of the analysis also looks at potential sources for the materials, such as construction and demolition waste and end-of-life vehicles.

Read more at "Sciencefor Environment Policy": European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, edited by SCU, The University of the West of England, Bristol.

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