We will run out of natural resources soon
We can no longer afford a use-and-throw-away culture. We must produce and consume sustainably by reusing and recycling our resources.
For RGS Nordic, circular economy is about ensuring that ourresources are used in the best possible way so that they are not wasted. The resources we treat are soil and materials fromthe construction industry. To act in the best possible way it is necessary to put resources into their proper context.
Sand, gravel and rock are becoming a limited resource, and there are already increasing distances between extraction areas and fields of application. Around some cities, such as Copenhagen and Stockholm, there is limited availability of virgin natural resources. At the same time, growth and construction activity is greatest in cities, so natural resources are being transported over increasing distances. In Denmark, this is up to 100 km, and in Sweden some resources are transported from even further away.
We need to think differently. We need to utilise the many resources which are stored in urban developments and infrastructure. Out of many billions of tonnes of resources, 0.5–1% of quartz and clay are released every year as waste. Lawmakers are beginning to become aware of this, so that it is being incorporated into national strategies for resources and circular economy so that construction waste is utilised with greater value.
RGS Nordic has a strategic focus on increasing the value of recycling construction waste, as well as on ensuring the quality of recycling in relation to hazardous substances. In this way we contribute to the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources, environmentally sound treatment of waste throughout its life cycle, as well as significant reductions in amounts of waste through recycling. Through our strategic efforts, we support SDG #12, Responsible Production and Consumption.
Recovery and recycling of materials from construction
The Danish strategy for circular economy paves the way for utilising resources from construction with higher value. The largest amounts of construction waste are concrete, brick, asphalt and wood, and of these materials, about 95% is recovered today. A shift to circular material flows for construction waste requires a change of course, so that waste is returned as new construction products. The big challenge is that materials from construction waste are different to virgin natural resources. In most cases, it requires the development of new construction products based on the different raw materials we are talking about a paradigm shift: from waste into products to products from waste.
Disposition of soil
In Denmark, our premise is that soil which can be cleaned must be cleaned. Then the soil is utilised in construction projects, often with environmental approval. .
In Sweden, soil is often used as topsoil and to build up landfills. In this way, the soil is used for recovery purposes in the case of old waste deposits. Part of the soil should be able to be used for multiple projects so that a higher utilisation rate is reached. RGS Nordic is collaborating with Gothenburg Municipality on a documentation concept so that disposition can be made on the basis of the “Ordinance concerning environmentally hazardous activities and the protection of public health”. This will mean that in the Gothenburg area alone, about 150,000 tonnes of soil per year will be recovered instead of deposited. In other major urban areas in Sweden, correspondingly large amounts of soil could be recovered.
Sustainable wastewater treatment
Free phase oil in oily wastewater from the offshore industry is separated and recovered for secondary fuel. Treatment of wastewater in our biological water treatment requires both pH adjustment and the addition of carbon sources for the growth of bacteria for the treatment to be optimal. For this, we use waste sludge and waste glycol which is thus recovered.
Traceability and documentation
Materials from construction waste in connection with demolitions and renovations are not clinically cleaned of residues of other materials and hazardous substances. This must be taken into consideration when recovering or recycling these materials.
RGS Nordic has introduced systematic quality control of materials. Therefore, these are supplied with data sheets which describe, in detail, both the technical characteristics, such as cleanliness in relation to hazardous substances, and the content of other materials. This ensures that our customers have good knowledge of the materials. We also provide our recommendation on where and how the materials can be used best possible in the datasheets.