Recycled materials do not affect the overall cost of a construction project, a joint study by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and Wrap has shown.The study analysed 14 common product categories, comparing the impacts of products with low recycled content against those containing good practice levels. BRE applied life-cycle assessment across 12 different environmental performance indicators and combined the results using their overall Ecopoint score.
Dr David Moon, programme manager for Construction Procurement, WRAP said: “The analysis demonstrates that, on a typical project, after selecting a ‘green’ design specification, contractors can further reduce their environmental impacts by choosing alternative products with a higher recycled content in a few common categories, without increasing costs. Therefore more clients should be setting requirements for good practice to encourage such behaviour – following the example of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Scottish Government and leading property developers and retailers.”
Wrap said a growing number of construction clients, policy bodies and planning authorities are setting requirements for projects to measure and increase reused and recycled content. Alongside waste reduction and recovery, the re-incorporation of material into new build is integral to the efficient use of resources. To date, however, there have been no rigorous studies focusing on the overall impacts of such a broad grouping of material types, the organisation said.
In those product categories where data were available, BRE found that higher recycled content correlated with lower overall environmental impact as a general trend across the products studied – although some individual products do “buck the trend”.
With regards to carbon impacts, the trend is not uniform. For some product categories, higher recycled content makes little difference overall. Where there is a difference, using good practice recycled content has a positive impact on carbon emissions in the majority of cases.