Incorporate extended use in project planning phases; create or update city policies to allow for extended use.
🏢 Construction and demolition waste reuse and recycling
Currently, most Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste is mixed and used for backfilling or sent to landfill. Some of it is incinerated or downcycled into products of much lower value. This has become a pressing issue in many urban areas due to the sheer volume of C&D waste, which often is the biggest proportion of the waste stream. However, the built environment in cities is already a “mine” from which to recover valuable materials from the existing building stocks.
Improving separation of different materials at demolition sites and establishing or improving facilities for reuse and recovery of C&D waste allows for value to be retained within the local economy, reducing the burden of urban C&D waste management and helping cities achieve a more resource-efficient urbanisation. By recovering building components from buildings that are to be demolished, fewer new components need to be produced, and fewer raw materials need to be extracted. This reduces environmental impacts and emissions at each step of the value chain, from extraction to transportation and manufacturing.
Cities can influence the type of waste management infrastructures developed within the city’s borders, as well as how different facilities throughout the city connect to one another. They can invest and support in developing infrastructure, both physical and digital, that can facilitate the closing of material and energy loops throughout the urban built environment. This can take the form of C&D recycling facilities, facilities for reconditioning of deconstructed building elements, and material and component marketplaces to collect and recover disassembled pre-used building components and material. Finally, they can invest and facilitate research to map the building stock aiding in identification of recovery opportunities and adequate demolition practices.
⚡ Recycling and repurposing energy equipment
Renewable energy already accounts for over 50% of the newly installed power generation capacity (<a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Apr/Global-energy-transformation-A-roadmap-to-2050-2019Edition">IRENA). As the power generation shifts towards renewables, oil and gas assets will need decommissioning and demand for materials will increase to meet the need for new energy infrastructure. However, secondary materials are rarely available. The majority of materials and equipment from old energy infrastructure is downcycled rather than reused or repurposed. Whereas recycling processes for renewable energy equipment are not widespread yet, mainly because until now, the issue of their disposal and recycling has not existed on a large scale.
The circular economy could reduce virgin material extraction and offer high-value alternatives through recycling and decommissioning old energy infrastructure—from recycling glass in solar panels to repurposing wind turbines into bikeshed and bridges. The global market for disposal and recycling of solar and wind equipment could be worth upwards of $360 million by 2024, meaning great opportunities for green job and workforce development (<a href="https://www.betterenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Waste-and-Recycling-Fact-Sheet.pdf">Better Energy). Repurposing and recycling these assets can also reduce emissions associated with the disposal of their components and create revenue to finance decommissioning through the reselling of components at end-of-life.
Local governments can facilitate this transition by setting the right regulations that enable repurposing and recycling of these assets, offer upskilling and reskilling opportunities for workers that could focus on decommissioning and recycling assets as we move away from building new facilities, and require approved end-of-life management plans to be included in tenders for energy projects managed by the city. Governments can also support research on recycling technologies and ensure that financial resources are available for end of life handling of the equipment even if the original parties are unable to perform it (e.g. if they have gone out of business)—via a performance bond or other surety.