Altshausen, Germany-based sorting equipment provider Stadler Anlagenbau GmbH says boosting the recycling rate for construction and demolition (C&D) provides an opportunity for the company to work with customers and for wider society to meet circular economy goals.
Stadler calls the construction industry “by far the biggest generator of waste in the European Union – about 870 million tons in 2017 – which accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of the total waste generation in industrialized countries.”
Although recycling rates in EU nations may vary, Stadler states, “In all cases most of the recovered materials are downcycled – mainly used for backfilling in road construction, building foundations or embankments – or sent to landfill.”
Commenting on upgrading the materials, Juan Carlos Hernández Parrodi, a senior project manager at Stadler, says, “This represents a huge untapped potential. Typically, [C&D material] is made up of concrete, wood, metals, glass, masonry rubble, stones, soil, sand, gypsum, plasterboard, asphalt, plastics, insulation, paper, cardboard and salvaged building components. There is very little that can’t be recycled – the recycling potential of this [material] can be higher than 90 percent.”
He continues, “Some previous studies have pointed out that, if appropriately processed to remove moisture and impurities, recovered aggregates can even have advantages over raw materials in some cases, such as higher compressive strength and a wider range of applications in the construction industry.”
C&D recycling awareness among governments, environmental organizations, educational institutions and the general public is growing, according to Stadler. “This evolution is accelerating,” Hernández Parrodi says. “Legislation regulating the amounts of [C&D material] that can be disposed of in landfill is increasingly restrictive and aims to promote the recovery of secondary materials and recycling. At the same time, new regulations are setting high standards for recycled construction materials, encouraging a shift from downcycling to recycling and upcycling. All these factors are driving a fast growth in the demand for technology innovation.”
Stadler says it is able to bring its experience in the design of advanced municipal solid waste (MSW) sorting plants to the construction sector, developing tailored solutions to match the individual situations: “The consideration of all the specific factors, together with our know-how, enables us to provide effective, efficient and high-quality sorting facilities,” says Hernández Parrodi.
The company says its systems are conceived to process large amounts of mixtures of diverse materials in very challenging conditions, such as the presence of fines and humidity, as well as heavy and bulky objects. Stadler says it has successfully applied its sorting know-how in a number of C&D projects – the most recent ones for Sogetri in Switzerland and Remeo Oy in Finland.
The latter facility combines a mixed C&D sorting plant capable of processing 30 tons per hour and a commercial and industrial materials plant with 15 tons per hour capacity. It also features artificial intelligence (AI) technology from Finland-based ZenRobotics. Mauri Lielahti of Remeo says he was impressed with Stadler’s tailored approach to the project, commenting, “We appreciated Stadler’s capability to be innovative, their willingness to seek new solutions and that they were ready to listen to the customer’s needs.”
Stadler sorting plants can produce a range of end products, including sand, gravel, metal, wood and others. Recovered concrete can be used to produce recycled concrete. “This means that with recovery not only is it possible to close the loop in material life cycles and move towards a circular economy, but it also enables upcycling, consequently expanding the applications and increasing the added value of recovered materials,” concludes Hernández Parrodi.