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Feature lecture 3

The use of waste materials in construction - progress made and challenges for the future, by Mike Head

This lecture charts the developments in environmental protection and waste and resource management from the latter part of the industrial age in the UK to the rise in the late 20th century of sustainability associated with the Rio and Johannesburg earth summits.

The particular focus is the role of improved waste and resource management practices and increased use of waste and secondary materials in construction, in contributing to the wider sustainability agenda.

A number of technical and economic challenges relating to the use and perception of recycled aggregates have been overcome in the last 20 years.

Fiscal measures coupled with client demands for sustainability are ensuring the achievement of increased levels of recovery and recycling, as well as increased recycled content in new construction projects.

Such pressures should also help increase use of recycled aggregates, a process that needs to continue. Other waste sectors can also play a significant part in increasing the beneficial use of waste materials in construction. Tyres, glass and organic materials can have properties that are not only consistent with more conventional approaches but can also, in many cases, be substantially better.

There remains, however, a continued need for research to underpin new, developing and evolving technologies and applications.

Mike Head is director of Infrastructure, TRL, UK, responsible for transport, covering infrastructure, asset management, sustainable development/construction and investigation and risk management.

He has specialist experience of environment, resource management, waste and foundation engineering.

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