Circular economy in construction
There is a lot of downcycling and even landfilling, but upcycling (RE-using) as it is is only up to 10%.This is due to a variety of reasons of which one is the available technology. Czech company ERC-TECH (Effective Recycling Concrete-Technology) wants to solve at least a part of the problem. The company has developed a technology to produce high-quality concrete from 100 per cent recycled aggregates and can replace 100 per cent of virgin material. The company calls their patented solution revolutionary – a term that is easily used, but maybe in this case not wrong.
Because as Petr Marek, Director of business development at ERC-TECH points out, there is nothing new in using recyclate in the production of concrete. But the company uses all of the inert material like concrete, bricks, roof tile or ceramics – which actually makes sorting at least of the inert materials unnessary. The result is a concrete with up to 45MPa compressive strength. All Classes of concretes are certified in accordance with the testing standards EN 206+A1, tested by right authorities. „It has all the parameters of concrete from virgin material“, Petr says. „It is circular economy in construction.“ And it gets even better: For the process, no new technology is needed. As Petr points out, that existing equipment like crushers for recycling etc. can be used as well. The „secret“ is the right mixing plant for the concrete.
„It’s all about quality of recycled aggegate and the mixing, we have the know-how, how to prepare and how to mix it“, Petr explains. He further states that all parameters are within the norms and some are even better. However, although this sounds like a good idea and can be done quite easily, there is one big issue with market implementation: the material is waste. That has of course legal implications, for example in terms of storage. But even the recycled product is considered still waste by many. Therefore, as Petr points out, trust is missing. „A change of the mindset is needed“, as he puts it. That is something he and his colleagues are working on right now. A good argument should be that the material in many cases is even better than virgin material. For the process, no natural resources are needed, which includes natural aggregates and sand. The concrete from recycling material even has some more advantages. The material is about 10 per cent lighter than concrete from natural aggregates – and as Petr explains, the production costs are lower as well. In many cases, this seems to be an important argument.
So in principal ERC-TECH is ready to conquer the world – sort of. The technology is already patented in 154 countries. What they need now are partners. They have few already in the Czech Republic, where 8 plants are already certificated. Also in Slovakia and one country in Middle East. One oft he company involved in Czech is Skanska CZ, where they use recycled concrete for own development projects and cooperation is also with BASF who produce special admixture for recycled aggregates. And now they are looking for partners in other countries to transfer the technological know-how. As Petr emphasises, ERC-TECH will not go into all the different countries themselves, they are looking for a strong partnerships where we will transfer technologicol know how to our partner. There is a very important reason, why local (country) players are needed: As Petr explains, parner knows very well market and also for implementation of technology on country level, the transport of concrete for more than 30 kilometers does not make much sense economically and ecologically.
Therefore, partners are needed. It would be useful getting in contact to those companies already in the recycling and concrete business, because they already have almost everything that is needed. And they can expect something in return. Depending on the usage, ERC-TECH talks about up to 45 per cent cost reduction. And of course, the environmental advantages are relevant as well.
The potential of the technology is huge, especially given the high amounts of C&D waste (whole world produce about 3,5 bilion tonnes every year). But above all, it needs customers willing to use the material. And the sad news is: Virgin material will still be needed. As Petr points out, even with using all demolition waste for the new process, only 15 per cent of virgin material could be replaced due to the high demand. But at least it is a start.