Members of the working group on circular construction meet in Rotterdam to discuss circular asphalt.

"Treat your roads as a waste project and think about the future’" said Pascal Kregting from Koninklijke Bouwend Nederland during a meeting with the members of the BigBuyers working group on circular construction.

The members of the working group representing Vienna, Lisbon, Rotterdam and Haarlem met in Rotterdam on 29-30 March to exchange on strategic procurement and to engage with market actors about the latest innovations to reduce energy and raw material demand for asphalt production and paving. 

The participants discussed the practicalities public buyers face when planning to combine the state-of-the-art of circular asphalt with their cities’ sustainability targets and the challenge of considering both universal EU-wide goals and varying local conditions across the Member States.  

The participants also compared their local conditions and discussed their main objectives for market dialogue and the working group’s aim to identify common priorities for future work. These included, for example, the impact of the share of recycled materials on asphalt’s durability, which can be addressed by careful quality checks. The participants also noticed that the current cap on the share of recycled materials in asphalt may need to be revised in order to allow producers to offer more innovative solutions less-dependant on fossil fuels and imported materials (such as bitumen). 

Léon Dijk from the city of Rotterdam, which hosted the visit, explained the Dutch innovation procurement strategy, emphasising the benefits of using performance-based indicators (cost-value ratio) and product-category rules (PCR). This approach allows the contractors a certain level of flexibility in choosing the solutions in order to incentivise further development of innovative construction technologies. 

As part of engaging in market dialogue, the group met with Pascal Kregting from Koninklijke Bouwend Nederland (an association of construction and infrastructure companies, with approximately 4800 affiliated members) to learn about the market actors' perspective, major challenges facing the sector and the current best practices for increasing the amount of recycled materials in road maintenance and construction. 

One of the issues Mr Kregting raised was the rising energy costs that present a significant challenge for asphalt producers. Mr Kregting also emphasised that the contracting authorities should decide on their clear goals and ensure that the regulation is adjusted accordingly and promptly. For example, most of the association’s members have the capacity to increase the share of recycled materials in asphalt to 40-50%, twice as much as the current national regulations allow.

The group also visited the Asfaltcentrale Rotterdam, an asphalt production facility that uses the Highly Ecologic Recycling Asphalt System (HERA) based on indirectly heating the raw materials. The use of the HERA technology results in a higher percentage of reuse of old asphalt and lower emissions of harmful gases. Chris Grootendorst, manager of the plant, agreed with Mr Kregting’s opinion that the rising cost of producing asphalt resulting from the increasing cost of using fossil fuels may motivate producers to switch to circular materials in order to remain profitable. 

The study visit to Rotterdam followed an introductory online session organised earlier in March when representatives of TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research, explained the principles and best practices within circular asphalt.

The Working Group on circular construction is one of four working groups established under the European Commission’s Big Buyers initiative that aims to promote innovation through linking public buyers with market actors and identifying where joint actions, dialogue and international cooperation among public buyers across Europe can successfully trigger a positive impact on the market.