Find out how your company can specify sustainable materials and discover how the latest toolkits from WRAP can help minimise waste.

With finite natural resources under increasing pressure, sustainable development is now firmly on the construction agenda. One way in which the industry can respond is to look again at improving its materials resource efficiency.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has been tasked with improving the UK's materials resource efficiency by diverting waste from landfill through recycling and waste minimisation.

For the construction sector, WRAP is focusing attention on what can be improved as a project-level outcome, on a par with energy and water efficiency. WRAP is therefore working closely with every level of the supply chain to demonstrate the business case for a range of materials resource efficiency measures. From this the programme has been able to provide a portfolio of guidance materials and tools to help the industry to capitalise on the opportunities.

recycled aggregate

The potential is clear. The industry is one of the UK's most productive, contributing almost 9% to GDP. It is also the biggest consumer of material resources - some 420 million tonnes per year - and responsible for over 20% of the UK's waste. By helping to reduce some of the 90 million tonnes of waste generated per year the construction industry is uniquely positioned to make both a very valuable contribution to the cause of sustainability, and also further streamline its own business.

Significant progress has been made already. Around 50% of construction and demolition waste is currently recycled or reclaimed for use back in construction. The UK is currently leading the way in Europe in the use of sustainable aggregates, with some 25% of total consumption being fulfilled by recycled and secondary aggregates.

Much of the work undertaken over the last three years by WRAP's Aggregates and Procurement programmes has been focused on stimulating the demand and assisting the supply of a range of recycled materials and products in the construction sector.

On the procurement front, a growing number of clients have been pro-active in setting requirements for materials resource efficiency. Glasgow City Council, for example, recently mandated a minimum 10% recycled content in major construction tenders. WRAP's Procurement team has been busy engaging with decision makers at all levels in the construction process to demonstrate that recycled content can easily be increased in a project through informed product selection - at no extra cost or risk.

Of course specifying higher levels of recycled content helps to boosting demand for recovered and reclaimed materials thereby increasing their value and helping to make recycling more economic for the sector in the longer term.

In the aggregates industry WRAP funding has increased the production capacity for recycled and secondary aggregates (RSAs).

The AggRegain website provides a comprehensive information and best practice resource on RSAs for producers, specifiers and users.

From April 2006 WRAP will be bringing all its construction related activities under one programme and has created a dedicated web portal

The website will provide easy access to all its work in this field, including extensive guidance, practical tools, and information on forthcoming events.

Log on this Spring for details on seminars on Site Waste Management Plans, a second series of Recycled Roads events and a series of Materials Resource Efficiency In Regeneration Projects workshops.

Getting to grips with recycled content

To help construction professionals with the process of setting and meeting project requirements for recycled content, WRAP is launching its Evaluation Tool for Recycled Content in Construction Projects (RC Toolkit).

Starting from basic information on the dimensions and specification of a building, the toolkit makes it easy for the user to:

  • estimate the baseline and good practice levels of recycled content;
  • identify the top 10 ‘Quick Win' opportunities to improve environmental performance by substituting cost-competitive products with a higher-than-standard recycled content;
  • refine the analysis to reflect actual product choices and design details; and
  • quantify the projected recycled content and report how it will be achieved.
The RC Toolkit can be used during planning and design to check that a construction project will meet its targeted outcome for recycled content.

The toolkit has been developed by Faithful and Gould, Cyril Sweett and Solstice Associates. It is based on reference values for recycled content and materials costs from around 500 standard specifications and includes data from BRE, AMA Research and Davis Langdon.

Primarily for application on new build projects, it is available to use free of charge at

Project teams with the potential to influence substantial construction budgets may be eligible for free training. To register interest, please email:

To complement the RC Toolkit, WRAP has published "Choosing Construction Products: recycled content of mainstream products," a compendium of products and materials commonly used in new build and refurbishment projects.

The publication allows the user to identify the range of values of recycled content for each type of product, compare the recycled content of alternative brands, and study datasheets for individual brands. The publication is available for download at