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Scottish construction crisis: 15 years of resources remain, circularity needed

Quarries are depleted and current reserves will run out in less than two decades,  experts warn. 

men on scaffolding

Research by Scottish firm Brewster Brothers, which specialises in reuse and recycling within the construction sector, has pointed to a growing need to focus on circular models. 

The Aggregates and Minerals Survey conducted by the Scottish Government in 2019 showed that there was around 18 years of sand and gravel left in Scotland’s quarries. Meanwhile, the Minerals Products Association reported in 2022 that just 30% off aggregate supplies in the UK were coming from recycled sources, despite huge scalability potential of reusing construction waste to make new building materials. 

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency recently consulted on draft Integrated Authorisation Framework, which will standardise the environmental authorisations in the country. This in itself presents a key opportunity to improve construction waste recycling, driving interest in this side of the building industry.

Additionally, a new Scottish Aggregates Tax could be used to incentivise the use of recycled sands and aggregates as oppose to virgin equivalents. Now at Stage 3 of the Holyrood process, once passed into law this will replace the current UK Levy, and is set to introduce an additional charge for virgin resources, making circular options cheaper. 

‘With less than fifteen years’ worth of sands and gravels left in Scotland’s quarries’ permitted reserves, this is a tipping point for Scotland. Either we can choose to open up more of the country to quarrying, or we can encourage the construction sector to recycle more of the waste products from excavation, and to buy recycled sands and aggregates to build with,’ said Scott Brewster, Managing Director of Brewster Brothers.

‘At the moment, the waste hierarchy and duty of care is far too optional, and rather than recycling being mandatory, it is requested ‘where possible’ in planning and building regulations,’ he continued. ‘The country also needs to use the Scottish Aggregates Tax as a springboard to incentivise further use of recycled aggregates and make them more competitive than their virgin equivalents. We have a huge opportunity here. According to SEPA, just 28% of UK aggregate demand is currently met with recycled aggregates. In Scotland, that number is 20%.’

More on waste and recycling: 

Farming soil created from desert with ‘forever fertile’ animal waste product

Anti-toxin mural removes pollution in London on Clean Air Day

Torfaen Borough Council looks to boost recycling rates with ‘transfer station’

Image: Grant Durr

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