Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from Quarry Products Association


  There is a lack of definitive data on the availability and supply of recycled/secondary materials. The aim of this note is to identify the assumptions used by the QPA, and their derivation.


  Recycled materials are essentially re-used construction materials generated by demolition activity, including material planed-off road surfaces during road maintenance work and re-used rail ballast. Secondary materials are those which are derived from other extractive and industrial processes and used in aggregates markets.

  The use of recycled and secondary materials in aggregates markets is not a recent development. Historically (pre-1990) there was a working assumption that 10 per cent of the aggregates market was supplied from recycled/secondary sources.

  In 1991 the Arup report for the DoE "Occurrence and Utilisation of Mineral and Construction Wastes" indicated a volume utilisation of 32 million tonnes for 1989-1990. The market for primary aggregates in 1989 was 300 million tonnes and in 1990 278 million tonnes, therefore 32 million tonnes from recycled/secondary source accounted for 9.6 per cent/10.3 per cent of the total aggregates market.

  A subsequent report commissioned by the DoE from Howard Humphreys and Partners, "Managing Demolition and Construction Wastes" assessed the use of demolition materials. Based upon assumed arisings of 70 million tonnes per annum. of demolition and construction wastes, this study indicated that some63 per cent, or 44 million tonnes was recycled in some form or another. The majority of the recycling, was estimated to be for low level uses, or for engineering use on landfill sites. In summary, the use of demolition arisings was identified as follows:

    —  70 million tonnes of demolition arisings, of which:

        —  24 million tonnes used on aggregates and construction fill;

        —  20 million tonnes used in landfill engineering (haul roads, construction of cells, landfill cover);

        —  26 million tonnes landfilled.

  Of the 26 million tonnes of material landfilled, Howard Humphreys estimated that a substantial proportion was "soft" material such as soils, which would not be suitable for aggregates uses.

  Using the work of Arup and Howard Humphreys, the use of recycled and secondary materials in aggregates markets can be estimated as follows:

Estimated Use

Secondary materials15 million tonnes
Demolition/construction waste24 million tonnes
Asphalt road planings5 million tonnes
Total:44 million tonnes
(plus use in landfill engineering of20 million tonnes)

  This suggests that the volume of useable demolition and construction waste which is not currently used is relatively small (a proportion of the 26 million tonnes of material now landfilled).

  There is little doubt that the introduction of the landfill tax has provided an incentive to avoid disposal of demolition and construction waste in landfill, and so encouraged the further recycling of such materials beyond the volumes estimated by Arup and Howard Humphreys.

  It should also be noted that in October 1999 Government implemented an exemption to the landfill tax whereby inert materials (largely demolition and construction wastes) used for quarry restoration would not be taxed. This exemption was to correct a perverse impact of the original landfill tax regime, which had resulted in inert material required to meet quarry operator's land restoration commitments being diverted elsewhere.

  There is frequently confusion about the likely and potential use of recycled and secondary materials, and particularly demolition and construction wastes, both because there is no consistently reliable set of data and because of inconsistencies and confusion in terminology. In the context of making the most efficient use of primary aggregates, we would regard the use of any recycled or secondary material in circumstances which replace the use of primary aggregates as positive examples of "recycling".

  On the basis of existing evidence, including that referred to in the text and the attached results of Recycled Aggregates Survey from the Building Research Establishment, it appears likely that the total contribution of recycled and secondary materials to the domestic aggregates market is significant—we estimate 17 per cent in our main evidence to the Committee. It is also likely that our total rate of re-use of demolition and construction waste is of a similar order to best European practice.

  Given that, as acknowledged in the evidence of the Financial Secretary, the current Mineral Planning Guidelines targets for the use of recycled and secondary materials in aggregates market by 2001 have already been met, there are already effective mechanisms operating in the market to encourage the increasing use of these materials.

  These mechanisms, such as improvements in information, the development of specifications, and enhancements in recycling capacity, will continue to optimise the use of recycled and secondary resources. No evidence has been presented to the Committee or elsewhere which suggests that an aggregates tax would significantly alter this process.

February 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 11 February 2000