Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What if aggregate could be manufactured instead - using 98% waste?

Now it can. Novagg, "hailed as the world’s greenest lightweight aggregate", is made using unsorted mixed coloured waste glass combined with other industrial waste. Developed in collaboration with Imperial College, "work is now under way with several multi-national companies to put Novagg on the commercial stage in a bid to become the global ‘green’ construction material of choice".

This is just the sort of advance that makes forecasting aggregate shortfalls over the next 20 years so uncertain, and will in time reduce the need for the sort of quarry AI is planning at Straitgate Farm.

Of course, AI will know all about these advances. It will know that this is the way its industry has to move. It will know that consuming farmland on this ever more populated island is not sustainable. And, as if to prove as much, in 2010 AI bought a majority stake in a company using fly ash to make lightweight aggregate. Lytag "provides an excellent alternative to natural, quarried aggregate, being strong, light and consistent". AI's then CEO (now Chairman) said "as modern construction continues to evolve, fly-ash and Lytag are increasingly being used and specified for a range of products and projects". A new "state of the art facility" next to Drax Power Station will be finished this summer and will "displace the need for 400,000 tonnes a year of newly quarried aggregates".

So, DCC's Minerals Plan to 2031 should acknowledge the advances being made in construction materials and the long term decline of sand and gravel, not allocate more and more land for quarrying. Products such as Novagg and Lytag reduce the need for aggregate extraction, divert material from landfill and preserve the natural landscape - to not use them more widely would appear a no-brainer.