Circular Economy: more strategic support is needed for construction SMEs

On 10 September, the World Steel Association organised the conference “Circular economy impact on the steel industry”, during which EBC Secretary General, Eugenio Quintieri, highlighted the main challenges construction SMEs face in regard to circular economy. “The construction sector is responsible for about 25-30% of total generated waste in the EU. An issue of which craftsmen and SMEs in the sector are well aware, which is why they take sustainability issues very seriously and continue their efforts to minimize and recycle waste at any stage”, says Quintieri. In order to do so, more replacement channels such as waste grouping platforms/transit platforms should be available for construction businesses. These replacement channels can take the shape of “transit” facilities and must allow the concentration of small waste quantities that will end-up in recycling or recovery sites. These facilities must constitute a homogeneous network, so that businesses can deposit their waste in the respect of the proximity principle. The costs must also be adapted to the type and quantity of waste.

Moreover, EU circular economy targets can only be achieved if the recycling and reuse of construction materials is economically advantageous. When sending waste to a disposal site is a simple and inexpensive operation, recycling and reusing are not convenient; low prices on raw materials do not support recycling and reuse either. To change this trend, we need to increase fiscal disincentives for disposal and increase fiscal incentives for the use of recycled and reused materials.

In addition, further support is needed to enhance the capabilities and skills of construction SMEs and craftsmen, which represent approximately 99.9% of the construction industry. “A more strategic approach towards training and qualification schemes is required, alongside financial support, obligatory pre-demolition audits, and proper waste identification – all these actions together can contribute to speed up the transition towards a circular economy”, concludes Quintieri.