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A new method from Vartdal Plast makes it possible to recycle concrete infused with expanded polystyrene, cutting the costs and environmental footprint of both the demolition and construction of buildings.
Building construction and operations is the source of roughly 40 per cent of the world’s energy‐related CO₂ emissions. Most of these come from the production and transport of steel and concrete – both of which are heavy, energy-intensive materials. Recycling materials in old buildings can therefore significantly reduce the environmental and financial costs of building new structures, or upgrading old ones.
However, concrete reuse and recycling is being hindered by the fact that concrete elements are often infused with expanded polystyrene (EPS) – commonly referred to as Styrofoam – for insulation. EPS-infused concrete cannot be recycled using conventional methods, meaning that vast amounts of concrete are being wasted at construction sites every year.
Vartdal Plast has developed Berge®, a patented, fully integrated processing system that uses high-pressure water beams and advanced filter technology to separate EPS from concrete. Once deployed on a building site, it is possible to feed concrete elements into one end – and the separated elements emerge on the other, ready for recycling and reuse.
It is also possible using the same method to extract other hazardous materials, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) from concrete, thus reducing the risk of pollution from used building materials.
The Berge® system is mobile and can be easily moved from one site to the next. In addition to the environmental benefits of recycling insulated concrete elements, the system also cuts costs associated with transporting and treating concrete waste considerably.
Over the next few years, an increased focus on circular economy in the EU will require the construction industry to find new, cost-effective ways of creating resources out of building waste. The EU has already stipulated that by next year, 70 per cent of all waste from building sites should be made ready for reuse and recycling.
A fully working prototype, the Berge® system is currently being fine-tuned prior to market launch.
Established in 1961, Vartdal Plast is a pioneer in the use of EPS. It remains Norway’s largest manufacturer of EPS solutions for the food, packaging and construction industries.
System for extracting elements from concrete
Enables recycling of concrete that is traditionally treated as waste
Cuts costs associated with handling concrete waste