Report: Euro construction could be 50% circular by 2040

By Mike Hayes16 December 2022

Europe’s construction industry has the potential to achieve 50% circularity by 2040, according to a new report.

Just 18% of demolition waste was reused in construction in 2020. Photo: Adobe Stock

The research – Five Ways to Improve Circularity in Construction, published by management consultancy Bain & Company, in association with Circle Economy – concludes that European construction is currently 30% circular, making it one of the world’s most advanced markets.

Nevertheless, researchers believe a step up to 50% would enable the industry to halve its greenhouse gas emissions.

The report found that current levels of recycling are very low, with concrete at only 12% of recycled input. Furthermore, in 2020, only 18% of demolition waste was reused in construction.

The Bain researchers concluded that, even at 50% circularity, the industry would be able to meet market demands for new construction, while utilising 8% less material – equating to a reduction of around 52 million tonnes per year.

At the same time, says the report, the amount of recycled materials used could double, to around 28%, by 2040.

The Bain report highlights what it calls five critical strategies to help the construction industry reach 50% circularity by 2040:

  • Renovation and longer utilisation: Improving existing residential and commercial buildings to extend their lives and make them more sustainable.
  • Lightweighting. Innovating in design and materials could decrease a building’s embodied carbon by up to 15% by 2040.
  • Renewable inputs: Investing in the rapidly growing market for building materials made from renewable inputs.
  • Circular inputs: Increasing the amount of recycled content, with improved collection and recycling consistency,
  • Recovery services and technology: Better managing waste during construction and demolition, including more advanced material separation techniques, can help increase the amount of materials to be reused or recycled.
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