The UK aggregates industry is already one of the most sustainable in the world. Some 30% of our aggregate supply comes from recycled and secondary materials, the highest in Europe and over three times the EU average of 8%.
It could be argued that with the UN defining sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” and with rock-forming minerals constituting more than 90% of the Earth’s crust, that quarrying is infinitely sustainable. However, the sight of raw materials being extracted from a quarry is not a picture associated with a responsible use of resources for the next generation. The industry faces three growing challenges.
Firstly, there is a demand across the commercial world for industry to be more efficient, use less energy and ultimately become carbon-neutral. Investors are favouring sustainable companies and industries, and governments are finding excuses to raise taxes in the name of sustainability. The production of cement is particularly in the spotlight as it is by nature an energy and carbon dioxide intensive process.
Secondly, there is a need for quarries to become better neighbours, with increasingly stringent regulations covering water abstraction and discharge, dust and noise pollution and returning finished sites in a way that promotes plants and wildlife.
Finally, this concern for the environment, combined with increasing demand for land for housing, means that obtaining permission for new quarries or extensions is getting harder. It is perhaps not always appreciated that sourcing building materials locally is actually good for the environment.
As a manufacturer Atlantic Pumps see these challenges as an opportunity. Post-Brexit UK can innovate, contribute to a sustainable future and sustain a thriving economy at the same time.
In our next blog on sustainability, we outline some of the areas where we are working with the aggregates industry to meet these challenges.