Background – why do we need to increase material re-use?
The European Commission's Circular Economy Action Plan includes legesltaive proposal on waste and provides long term targets to reduce landfilling and increase recycling and reuse. A shift towards a more circular economy will also lead to more sustainable solutions to modern environmental problems. One of the goals set out in the Action Plan is to achieve a 70 % reuse of materials in building and construction projects. Waste and excess material from building and construction projects must therefore be seen as resource that can be used further in its life time. If such a paradigm shift can be achieved then economic and societal gains will be great.
This research project is funded through NGI's annual basic research funding from The Research Council of Norway, in a NGI three year research Strategic Program (SP).
Within GEOreCIRC we will focus our efforts on increasing the reuse of: excess ashes from incineration processes, material from tunnel constructions, soil that has been contaminated at a low level, excess materials from the mineral processing industry, chalk stabilized clay and slag. This will be achieved by investigating methods that can enhance the physical and chemical characteristics of the materials in order that they are suitable candidates for reuse.
Reuse will be focused in two areas:
- Construction materials
- Stabilization materials.
In Norway, the current set of laws related to the use of contaminated materials, provides an opening for the reuse of low level contaminated materials such as construction materials. Construction materials are defined as those that can be used in roads, car parks, train lines, noise barriers, and in fillings. In order to reuse low level contaminated materials, each individual case must be assessed and the actors involved must apply to the Norwegian Environment Agency to obtain a license to do so.
Reuse is acceptable so long as the materials to be reused do not pose a threat to the environment or to human health. However, methods to assess whether a risk is present are not available, thus decisions related to reuse can be difficult to make. Much of the available low level contaminated materials have physical properties that are not suitable in reuse applications (high water content), however by treating the materials their properties could be improved. It is important that methods are identified that allow risk to the environment to be assessed, as well as methods for property improvement.
The addition of a stabilization material to a contaminated construction material could be one way that reuse could be increased. Stabilization materials reduce the leaching of pollutants and hence the risk to the environment. Suitable stabilization methods will be developed for different types of materials, where physical and chemical parameters will be monitored over time in order to assess long term effects of stabilization.
The aims for the project are as follows:
- To identify barriers that currently exist that hinder the reuse of these materials. These barriers can be both legislative and practical, but must be identified before they can be overcome
- To carry out physical and chemical tests to determine the properties of the materials mentioned above and in order to ascertain whether they present a risk to the environment
- To develop physical and chemical methods that can be used in order to improve material characteristics and make them more suitable for reuse
- To produce a BAT manual that can be used by problem owners, consultants and regulators in order to determined whether reuse is possible and also to assess the risk a material can pose to the environment.
The project is divided in to 3 main work packages (WP) that each contain subwork packages (see below).
is related to the identification of materials, possible reuse applications and the barriers that are currently faced when trying to reuse materials. This work package draws on current NGI projects as well as the experiences from relevant industry.
focuses on the geochemical and geotechnical properties of waste materials. Both lab work and field work will be carried out and innovative methods will be identified to monitor effects over long time scales. The work will be carried out in the geotechnical lab at NGI as well as in collaboration with external customers.
will develop tools, methods and a BAT manual that will ultimately result in an increase in reuse of low level contaminated materials. Throughout the project a variety of case studies will be used as shown in the diagram above.
See descriptions of each WP in the links above or under the heading "Sub-projects". Project administration and management is described under heading "Project management".