Richard Kershaw, Technical Manager, CEMEX UK, discusses the business and environmental benefits of circular thinking to build a better future
We all understand the huge pressure the built environment is facing to clean up its act. Everyday building materials are a major source of CO2 emissions, with around 8% of global emissions coming from the cement industry alone. The good news is that the building materials industry can also be a major contributor to a more circular society, and its role in sustainably disposing of waste and by-products is vital for a greener economy.
The challenge to become Net Zero by 2050 is not something we take lightly. CEMEX is committed to working in partnership with customers and suppliers to help to build a better future, one where we can all do better business, which in turn benefits our built environment, local communities, families and our planet. From the buildings we construct to the materials we select, and the supply chain we use; every step of the process contributes to a more circular economy and a lower-carbon future.
Circular in the round
The best way to combat harmful emissions and reduce waste is for us all to embrace the concept of circularity, which involves finding more ways to reuse materials after their initial life cycle comes to an end. Many of us already do this in our daily business practices without thinking, but there is a huge opportunity to grow this space even further.
Based on the principles of the Circular Economy, our pathway to waste reduction and carbon neutrality starts inside our operations. By 2030, our main objective is to maximise the use of waste within our plants. Globally, during 2021, we managed close to 23 million tons of waste and non-recyclable by-products, which is over 57 times more waste than we sent to landfill.
Our Future In Action
Through a dedicated approach to delivering sustainable products and services, we are committed to making lower carbon products more accessible for everyone, whilst reducing waste across the supply chain. To drive us and help us to support our customers, our ‘Future in Action’ sustainability strategy is heavily focussed on defining a new era of responsible business for positive change.
UK First Carbon Neutral Ready Mix Concrete Product
In 2020 we launched Vertua, our first-ever net-zero CO2 concrete, which is now part of an extensive family of products that includes low carbon cements, concrete, as well as aggregates, admixtures and blocks. We are proud to be leading this vital movement. Our complete low carbon range now makes it easier to consider environmentally friendly product choices.
Our new range of bio-sourced admixtures are natural, renewable, and locally sourced raw materials which aim to achieve a carbon footprint up to 70% lower than traditional oil-based admixtures. Admixtures are added to concrete mixes to enhance attributes such as strength, workability, and water demand, while reducing related carbon emissions and promoting more sustainable practices. CEMEX Admixtures are the first in the building materials industry to deliver these attributes while utilising bio-based raw materials.
Thermal Insulating Concretes
The introduction of our Insularis concrete for energy-efficient renovation delivers energy savings of up to 20% in housing projects and thermal bridge reduction of up to 95%, reducing heat loss in colder weather.
The superior thermal performance properties of concrete can provide considerable in-use energy savings over the lifetime of buildings. The energy used in the operation of our homes and buildings is greater than the energy locked in the building fabric. Residential buildings alone are responsible for 25% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Using housing as an example, the operational CO2 associated with concrete and masonry homes can offset their slightly higher embodied CO2 in just over a decade of use.
ReadyBlock Zero, the UK’s first zero carbon concrete block, part of our VERTUA family, has residual CO2 offset to make it a CarbonNeutral® product, in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol. It represents an important and timely step for industry ahead of new legislation and the Future Homes Standard. By 2025, all new homes must produce 75-80% less carbon emissions. Designed to significantly lower carbon emissions by reducing the impact of new build construction, ReadyBlock Zero helps builders and developers to meet the new environmental standards.
As more and more consumers place higher priorities on green credentials, there are significant benefits for builders and construction firms to demonstrate sustainable practice by using environmentally-friendly products, which in turn have been designed and produced to meet the principles of the circular economy.
The quest to reduce waste and use more eco conscious building products and materials can increase the overall profitability of a project, but deciding which products to use can sometimes cause headaches for busy builders against the clock. The payoff can create dividends if you do your homework and switching to low carbon cement and concrete is just one way to get started. The greatest way we can all make a difference is through small changes which can have a significant impact to people, planet and profit over time.
For more on CEMEX UK, click here.