When you hear the word mining, you probably think of drilling deep into the earth to extract raw materials. Urban mining is something different. It means recovering and reusing cities’ waste materials, such as concrete, bricks, steel reinforcements, roofing materials, copper pipes or aluminum.
In Europe alone, some 850 millions tons of construction and demolition waste were generated in 2020 – or more than a third of all waste generated in the region. Urban mining looks at this material as a source of potential wealth, as opposed to sending it to a landfill, incinerating it or turning it into products of much lower value.
The buildings and infrastructure all around us are the biggest and most valuable part of any urban mine. And since concrete is the world’s most widely used building material, it constitutes a large part of construction and demolition waste around the world. Thankfully, concrete can be infinitely recycled, making it a promising long-term alternative to quarrying virgin materials.