From waste to raw material: 100% waste-free construction by 2030

We are aware of the major impact construction has on nature and the climate. This must and can be done differently. That is why sustainability is a high on the agenda at Ballast Nedam, both in the office and on the building site. From solar panels to electrical machines and from circular construction to a waste-free building site.  

Natural disasters, loss of biodiversity, heat stress. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly palpable. We can only turn the tide if we all take responsibility. Ballast Nedam feels this responsibility and has set a number of sustainability targets. For instance, we want our construction sites to be CO2 neutral by 2030 and energy neutral by 2040. We also want 50% circular and 100% waste-free construction by 2030.

To achieve these goals, we try to avoid using new raw materials as much as possible and put all our efforts into reusing and recycling building materials. And if new raw materials are needed, we choose biobased and non-toxic materials wherever possible.

Making the construction sector more sustainable requires awareness, behavioural change and innovative ideas. The biggest challenge is in recycling plastics and insulation materials such as extruded polystyrene (XPS). These materials are difficult to recycle and unfortunately still too often end up in the incinerator.

Building differently

You do not need to separate and recycle what does not enter the construction site. "That is why it is important to have good procurement agreements and to rely more on prefabricated construction. It is also important to build detachable structures. That makes it possible to dismantle a building that is set to be demolished so the materials can reused in another building," says Judith Doorn, sustainability coordinator at Ballast Nedam.

Even leftover sand-lime blocks go back to the factory, where they are made into new sand-lime blocks.
Judith Doorn Sustainability coordinator Ballast Nedam
She explains that there will always be waste on a construction site, but the point is to reuse or at least recycle it. From waste to raw material, in other words. "This is already happening at a larger scale with wood, rubble, plaster and metal, for example. Even leftover sand-lime blocks go back to the factory, where they are made into new sand-lime blocks. There is even a company now that recycles expanded polystyrene insulation, which is a more difficult material to recycle. I think that is a very nice development."

From waste to raw material

At De Groene Loper, project VANG (From Waste to Resource) started in October 2022. The project is a collaboration between Laudy Bouw & Ontwikkeling, part of Ballast Nedam, supplier BMN Nederland and producers Xella Group, ROCKWOOL Nederland and Steenfabriek Engels Helden. Project VANG focuses on three major waste streams: sand-lime brick, stone wool and brick. "We bring this waste back to the producer who then recycles it. We also reuse the wooden pallets and recycle the packaging material," says Leon Verheggen, innovation manager at Laudy Bouw & Ontwikkeling.

According to Leon, there is increasing support for projects such as VANG. "That's great, because sustainability is a collective responsibility of all links in the building chain: from design to production and from assembly to recycling."

Leon emphasises that there is still a world to be gained in terms of waste collection. "If different materials end up together in a waste container, for example, nothing at all can be recycled. Another issue is that there is usually insufficient space to collect all materials separately. Therefore, proper waste management is needed. So the construction industry still has some way to go to achieve our sustainability ambitions. But we are definitely on the right track." 

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