The construction sector is one of the sectors that currently causes the greatest environmental impact, due to the poor management of the large amount of waste it generates. This waste, called Demolition and Construction Waste (CDW), generally ends up in landfill if it is not recycled or reused, like the vast majority of materials. So, in this article we tell you which are the most common recycled construction materials.
Recyclable materials in construction
Building with recycled materials is the process of reusing discarded elements to reuse them for the same purpose, the construction of new buildings.
The importance of recycling is increasingly present in all areas of our lives, and construction is no exception. More than 75% of the consumption of the earth's natural resources is the responsibility of the construction industry. It is in this way that it is understood that on-site waste management is very important, since it is not only the construction industry that consumes the most raw materials, but also generates the largest quantities of waste.
Thus, for a more sustainable purpose, this type of industrial waste could be valid for reuse if it is correctly treated and destined. Reusable building materials can replace those that are extracted for the first time, resulting in new parts or construction elements while maintaining their full quality.
It is true, though, that not all materials can have a second life. Therefore, here is a list of those that are mainly recycled and reused.
Concrete is one of those construction materials that can be recycled. However, in order to recycle hardened concrete, a special crusher must be used to produce what is called "recycled aggregate". It used to be used only as an underlay, but it has now been proven that structural elements of 30 to 40 MPa can be created with appropriate technologies.
Generally, all types of scrap in a construction can be reused by taking it to an authorised recycling centre. Whether ferrous or non-ferrous, they can be separated, recycled and reused in other formats. Aluminium is a sustainable material, and the aluminium recycling process requires only 5% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium for example.
Among the non-ferrous metals, however, copper is the most important, as it retains practically the same qualities and characteristics, which is why it is so highly valued. Among the ferrous metals, one of the most sought-after is steel.
Steel can be made by combining iron and coal, by heating in a blast furnace or by recycling scrap.
This recyclable material can be reprocessed without affecting its quality, and it consumes 80% less electricity to recycle than to produce it. It is usually reused in nails, wires or metal profiles.
The use of recycled wood is very common in construction. Hardwoods, if kept in good condition, can last for hundreds of years. They are often used in large, structural elements or for the manufacture of other components such as boxes or pallets. Similarly, softer woods can also be recycled, especially as raw material for the panel industry.
Nevertheless, recycled wood is most commonly used for the manufacture of MDF sheets for carpentry. Alternatively, waste wood can also be disposed of for energy production, so-called biomass.
Recycled gypsum, with proper waste management, retains the same physical and mechanical characteristics as traditional gypsum, at a lower cost. However, some caution should be exercised since, if disposed of inappropriately, as it is a toxic material, it can release flammable hydrogen sulphide, contaminating the soil and groundwater.
Glass has a rather more complicated recycling process than the previous building materials, due to its different chemical composition and melting temperature (in the case of windows, for example), which prevents it from being mixed with other glass objects.
However, glass waste can be melted down to produce glass fibre, which is used in yellow and white reflective paints or asphalt.
Importance of recycling building materials
The recycling of materials in the construction industry is essential in order to curb an environmental impact that is increasingly present in our lives. In the end, maximising the reuse of this waste will mean that the companies in the sector themselves will be the ones to generate new raw materials from the recycling of these materials.
Also, the use of reusable building materials has numerous advantages and benefits such as the cost savings that we have already mentioned in each material, minimising the volume of discarded waste and conserving energy.
At ScrapAd we strongly believe in reusing and adopting a circular economy to help combat the effects of climate change. That's why we offer a service that helps companies in the recycling sector to buy and sell scrap metal and other recyclable materials. Contact us and find out what we can do for you.