As CEO of SITA Northern Europe Waste Services, Adriaan Visser is in charge of SITA’s operations in Benelux and Germany. BAM’s waste working group included representatives of SITA, as a key partner in construction waste collection and processing, and a number of suppliers of construction materials.
Are we talking about raw materials or about waste?
‘Twenty years ago, waste management companies were primarily specialist logistics firms that collected waste and transported it to a landfill site. We then started to incinerate waste. Later, due in part to new legislation, we began processing and, where possible, reusing waste. We have since done a complete about-face. SITA now focuses its attention on the front end of our clients’ operations. We no longer talk about ‘waste’, but about ‘residuals’ that can be made into new raw materials. ‘Residuals’ are not only less expensive, reusing these materials helps to avoid the depletion of natural mineral resources.’
To what extent are the residuals / waste from construction reused?
‘The effective separation of waste on construction sites creates different waste streams which are nearly all candidates for reuse (e.g. unprocessed wood, glass, rubble and concrete waste, metals). However, it’s not always worth the effort to separate waste on site. In these cases, the combined construction and demolition waste is transported to one of our sorting facilities for separation. Any remaining waste after the residuals are removed is incinerated. If you include energy generated by means of waste incineration as part of reuse, which is only possible at state of the art facilities such as the new power plant that BAM built in Roosendaal, 99 percent of the construction waste gets reused.’
Which waste streams are difficult to process and why? What role can BAM play to improve this?
‘Due partially to the health risks involved, products containing asbestos are difficult to process. There must be a way to ultimately divide them into their component parts, but that requires a great deal more research. We can already process polystyrene waste into blocks for use in road construction. In addition, we are exploring options to reuse bricks. At the moment, it goes straight to the rubble crusher, but there must surely be a way to reintroduce the material into the production process. As a major consumer, BAM could give, for instance, the brick making industry a significant boost to increase the recycling rate of their products. At the end of the day, we will have to work together to close the material cycle.’
What trends can be expected in the years to come with respect to construction and demolition waste, for instance, as regards policy and legislation?
‘Effective and consistent legislation guides us to the sustainable management of raw materials, but the government can also leave a substantial part of the work for the business community to address. This is something we – as links in the larger value chain – have to take ownership of. Fortunately, major players, such as BAM, are assuming a leading role in further increasing the sustainability of production processes as part of their social and sustainability engagement. Eco-design is a major feature of this approach. Early in the design stage of a product – thought must be given to how the waste will be processed at the end of the product’s lifespan.’