Monday, 10 December 2012

C&D waste recycling: Are we measuring the right thing?

2013 is the first year that the UK will be required to report figures for the recycling of construction, demolition and excavation waste under the Waste Framework Directive initiative to achieve 70% recycling by 2020.

While there is no doubt that some form of measurement is needed to allow us to monitor progress I have serious doubts about whether simply looking at a 70% recycling rate allows to achieve anything meaningful. What does recovery actually mean? If we look at the figures at the minute they seem to be very impressive – 20% of aggregates used in the UK come from recycled sources. That represents somewhere close to 45 million tonnes at the minute which represents half of all the CD&E waste produced according to Government estimates.

For my money we should be looking at raising the bar in the approach we take to dealing with CD&E waste. The vast majority of the material being produced at the minute is being used on very low value applications using the most basic processing possible. Surely we should now be looking at how we can move recycled material up the value chain?

Yes, there has been good success up to now with the numerous initiatives to increase the focus on the valuable resource that CD&E waste can provide. Yes, we should celebrate the commitment from the UK industry that has seen us lead the way in the adoption of new technology.

We should not however just keep measuring the same thing – we’ve moved on from simply trying to increase the amount of recycling of this material. The opportunity exists for us to turn this waste material into a real sustainable, high value alternative to virgin sand and aggregates rather than a cheap, low quality alternative.

How can we do this? Well maybe we can learn something from our European neighbours. After achieving more than 90% recycling of C&D waste some years ago in Belgium the target switched to improving the quality of recycled materials. This to me makes much more sense that simply aiming at a number that is fairly easy to achieve providing your description of what constitutes ‘recycling’ is wide enough.

If we’re simply doing this to tick another Brussels box then by all means keep measuring the volume of waste recycled. If, on the other hand, we’re serious about movingCD&E waste up the value chain and making the most of it as a valuable resource then it’s time for the focus to change. This happens by measuring something that encourages everyone in the CD&E waste recycling sector to up their game – from equipment manufacturers to material producers, architects, specifiers and building contractors.

Does the technology exist to do this? Yes it does. Will it help protect long term aggregate supply from a sustainable source? Yes it will.  In the words of a famous American sportswear manufacturer – Just Do It.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Landfill tax changes - threat or opportunity?

The environmental industry web sites are all singing the same tune today with articles dealing with the general disquiet over the changes in the landfill tax regulations for fines from trommels or screens.

The dominant voice seems to be the one that talks about the 2460% rise from £2.50 per tonne to £64 per tonne as a threat to the future of the industry and the potential for increase in fly tipping that will occur as a result. There are however some dissenting voices happy that a loop-hole has been closed that allowed for what David Palmer Jones described as '"cheap landfilling".

While there no doubt be attempts in the coming weeks and months to have this decision reversed it's also important for them to know that there is an alternative to the high landfill costs. It is possible to produce high quality recycled sand and aggregates from this material if more sophisticated processing systems are employed.

Simple crushing and screening of this material will not allow production of these quality recycled sand and aggregates. Introducing a washing plant will successfully divert the vast majority of this material from landfill and allow for the increased specification of recycled products on construction projects across the country.

While the initial reaction to this development is that it poses a threat to the industry there is no doubt that there is an opportunity here for operators dealing with this material to upgrade their processing systems in a move to avoid the huge increase in landfill tax.

The UK has established a reputation as the world leader in C&D waste recycling over the last decade largely due to the development of more sophisticated systems - which has only happened as a result of increased demand in this area. It has to be said that this demand has largely been driven by Government interventions and this landfill tax rise is simply the latest of these.

The industry has responded to challenges like this previously and it will do again - if these changes are here to stay then it has to in order to survive. Even if the decision is challenged we all know the decision will not be reversed any time soon given the government's reputation for quick action.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Innovation is: Unique + Bold + Original

In recent times the requirement to wash mineral reserves has become more frequent as operators tackle more difficult materials. With this upward trend set to continue equipment manufacturers have an important part to play in developing products which meet the evolving demands of the global industry. 

There has always been a requirement to process difficult materials. The geology of a region plays a large part in influencing the processing system that is chosen and it is for this obvious reason that washing equipment has found its place in the market. When there is clay present in the material or high levels of -63 micron material a washing plant offers the best solution to ensure production of the highest quality sand and aggregates.

When operators are faced with reserves which have variations in material quality they will obviously process the easiest material first – the low hanging fruit. The selection of the appropriate system will be selected according to the nature of the material to be processed and the final products that are required to satisfy customer demands.

As we have moved through the decades and quantities of this ‘low hanging fruit’ have diminished the challenge for equipment manufacturers has been to continually develop and improve systems to ensure the more challenging materials can be efficiently processed.

One of the key developments of recent years has been the move to mobile equipment within the global construction materials sector. This began with the development of mobile crushing and dry screening systems which operators can easily move between different processing locations and also move around a single site in order to minimise the transport movements of other vehicles.

The unique requirements of washing plants made this move to mobile a more challenging concept. Logic tells us that washing plants are restricted in their mobility due to the requirement for connection to an external water supply. The early attempts at mobile washing provided evidence of this and these plants were moved rarely – if at all.

Another short-coming in the development of the first washing plants described as mobile was the inability to successfully integrate the sand washing element with the washing screen. This required operators to purchase two separate items of equipment to deliver on the sand and aggregate production requirements.

The result of these short-comings was that the uptake of these systems was limited and the perception in the industry was that mobile washing plants had a problem – they weren’t mobile. Simply putting hydraulic tracks onto what was essentially a dry screen with the addition of a few spray bars was not a satisfactory solution.

The term ‘Mobile washing’ had reached a point where it had become the evil that will not be spoken of due to flaws in existing systems. These systems did not fail because of limited demand or lack of promotion. They failed because of an assumption that the same design principles that apply to dry processing equipment can simply be copied when developing a mobile washing plant. This provided the motivation for the development of the M2500.

Central to the creation of the M2500 was the integration of the sand washing element with the rinsing screen. The aim was to produce a mobile washing plant which offered feeding, aggregate washing, sand washing and stockpiling on a single chassis.

Another key issue was ensuring that the rinsing screen was suitable for the application and would stand up to the rigours of an aggregate screening process. The issue with previous mobile washing screens was that more often than not the spray bars were bolted to the screen box. This meant they were subject to extremely high stress levels which would ultimately result in failure.

The M2500 eliminates this risk by offering a spray bar assembly which is completely independent of the screen box thus removing this risk of failure and ensuring the M2500 is designed for long term reliability and performance.

By successfully integrating the Prograde rinsing screen and the Evowash sand washing plant onto the M2500 mobile washing has gained new momentum in recent years. The M2500 has quickly become established as the equipment of choice for operators in variety of industry sectors and has been employed on the processing of sand and gravel, crushed rock, dust washing, scalpings and construction and demolition waste recycling. In addition to this there are specific models available for mining applications.

The success enjoyed by the M2500 since its introduction to the global market is evidence that with the correct design ethos, existing processing systems can be substantially improved to offer the industry more efficient processing systems which help to improve product quality, reduce waste and meet the requirements of a fast changing industry.