Recycle road materials and the environment benefits

David Ogden, Business Director
29 May 2017
Image of Amey staff tarmacking a road.
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If you were to ask most people what materials can be recycled, they would say ‘paper, plastic, metal and cardboard’. But concrete and asphalt? They’re unlikely to feature.

Awareness about the importance of recycling has never been higher. We all know that the world’s resources are limited and that as a species we need to be re-using things much more, especially as the population increases. But the recyclability of road materials is less well known.

Whenever highways teams go out to make a road repair or fill a pothole, there will always be some waste materials to remove as part of the process. This could be concrete, stone, or some previously laid asphalt. While often these materials are destined for landfill, in fact they can be crushed and turned into aggregate that can be used once again in road repairs – and the benefits of this approach can be eye-opening.

In Staffordshire, where we have been delivering highways services in partnership with the county council for 14 years, we’ve been recycling road materials with a special focus. The area doesn’t have any quarries for natural materials and the quantities required for highways maintenance are so large that transportation costs would make it very costly to buy from other regions.

Our philosophy therefore has been to recycle as much as we possibly can. This means that very little road material goes to landfill, saving on both collection and waste disposal charges. Instead, we collect the old material and stockpile it in four depots across Staffordshire. When we have an economic batch quantity of waste, a mobile crushing and screening plant is used to process the material into aggregate. Of course, there are costs attached to crushing and screening, however these are more than offset by the savings.  

Because we always have a ready supply of aggregate materials we are very self-sufficient and not dependent on the availability of products. Indeed, when we have a surplus of materials, we sell materials on behalf of the client. Any revenue is re-invested into the network.

Most importantly of all, however, ours is a much more environmentally friendly approach. We are not quarrying new stone and there is reduced transportation in our process, so there are significant carbon savings and reduced pressures on the environment.

We’re proud of our innovative approach, which we’ve developed over a number of years with Staffordshire County Council. By using local depots to stock and process waste, and by working with the council’s in-house materials laboratory, we have saved millions of pounds over the years.

We are not the only business in our sector recycling materials in this way - but rarely is the process we’ve developed with our client as finessed as it is in Staffordshire. We believe all highways services could do more to increase the levels of recycling they undertake – and, if they do, the environment can only benefit.

 

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