Largescale recycling is still some way off in SA

18th March 2021


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The demand for recycled building materials in South Africa remains low as a result of the country’s plentiful supply of primary aggregates making it difficult for recyclers to compete in the open market.

Any large-scale recycling efforts will need to be carefully planned if they are to succeed, says Nico Pienaar of surface mining industry association, ASPASA. Addressing the global audience of the Global Aggregate Information Network (GAIN) via internet conferencing he added that the lack of availability of demolition materials and poor reputation of the materials is further hampering recyclers efforts.  

Unless demand is created through pressure on construction firms by customers, or until legislation makes it mandatory to use a percentage of recycled materials, the relatively low cost of primary aggregates in the country will ensure the status quo remains unchanged. While the use of recycled materials is a top priority of GAIN members, many are in the same position with participants from New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Argentina and the Ukraine also reporting low demand for recycled materials.

Scarce commodity

Nico explains, “In Europe and other developed countries the access to aggregates is becoming increasingly difficult due to the density of urban centres. Aggregates are also comparatively more expensive as a result of the long hauling distances from outside these centres. As a result, recycled building is a viable alternative for construction purposes.

“At present we have plentiful supplies of natural materials and due to the developing nature of our sprawling cities have easy access to materials. But that does not mean that we should rest on our laurels and wait for problems to arise. In rapidly growing areas like Sandton, Midrand, Cape Town city centre and other areas aggregates need to be hauled further at greater costs.

“There are still stumbling blocks to the widescale use of recycled materials, but once the need arises our members will need to play a critical role in the processing and distribution of these materials as they have among GAIN’s developed countries’ members. The use of existing land and established distribution networks makes more sense and is something that will need to be explored in future.”

Some success

Countries like Australia, Canada, USA, Columbia, Spain and other European nations are ahead of the curve with GAIN members in those regions reporting significantly higher uptake of recycled materials.

Australia’s recycling efforts are reasonably well developed, with the main driving force being green label designation for new builds, which use up to 40-50% recycled materials. However, challenges still exist in finding sufficient demolition material. Recycling in Canada and the USA are paying-off with comparatively high percentages of recycled materials being used in large centres.

Colombia reports a reasonably high uptake in achieving up to 10-15% replacement levels in major cities of Colombia like Bogota and Medellin, with the Government pushing for recycling levels of up to 25% in 3 years. In Spain, recycled aggregates are now promoted as secondary materials to improve acceptance.

Challenge accepted

“Supply is invariably driven by demand and the access to materials for sale. Until such time as these are met we only expect to see specialised operations being established with localised or mobile plants in operation. Either way, ASPASA members are ready to rise to the challenge as and when asked to do so,” Nico says.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



John Deere (Pty) Ltd
John Deere (Pty) Ltd

In 1958 John Deere Construction made its first introduction to the industry with their model 64 bulldozer.


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