Ceramic waste from construction and demolition work does not pose a health risk and is suitable for reuse in new construction projects. Decree No. 152 of 27 September 2022 issued by the Italian Ministry of Ecological Transition establishes the waste reclamation methods and parameters that must be adopted as part of initiatives to support the circular economy. 

The new goals of the construction sector

New studies in the field of sustainable development show that a building’s environmental footprint can be significantly reduced by using resources more efficiently throughout its life cycle. For this reason, the construction industry needs to adopt increasingly innovative policies such as material recycling in order to improve quality while managing its economic and environmental costs.

The Proposed Plan for Economic Transition and the Minimum Environmental Criteria have introduced a number of new elements based on the latest European directives. 

Life cycle assessments of buildings

Every sustainable building decision must be based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for the building which takes account of individual cases and specific local conditions such as the availability of raw materials, national energy mixes and adoptable demolition and disposal technologies.

The choice of products during construction

Choosing hard-wearing and durable products such as Italian ceramic tiles reduces the need for repair work and replacement, resulting in buildings with a long lifetime and lower environmental and economic costs. Use of these products also leads to a reduction in the consumption of raw materials and energy associated with processing and production. 

The aim of the LCA is to support decision-making processes of this kind and to help design teams make a more informed choice of materials.

The importance of material recycling

The environmental impact of materials used in new construction account for 30-50% of the total. For this reason it is important to incentivise the recycling of Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste, which helps to significantly reduce the carbon footprint.

EU policy pressures and technological innovation have led to the development of new materials from inert waste reclaimed from old buildings.

The end-of-life phase of buildings

A building’s EOL (end-of-life) phase makes an important contribution to its ecological footprint, so assessing the effects of the end-of-life phase in advance can reduce the overall emissions of buildings.

For example, the way in which C&D waste is treated may vary at both national and local levels, so any generic indication regarding the use of demolition waste that is not based on a previous assessment may be misleading. 

Recoverable materials 

Inert waste from excavation, construction and demolition work that is classified as non-hazardous is considered recoverable. These include materials of mineral or other origin such as cement, bricks, ceramic tiles and other ceramic products, tar-free bituminous mixtures, excavated soil and rock, and crushed stone.

This type of waste does not change over time and poses no risk to the environment or health.

The provisions of the Decree

The decree issued by the Ministry of Ecological Transition establishes the safety conditions that must be met for demolition materials to be reused in new construction work. 

The decree also indicates the maximum concentrations of potentially hazardous elements that may be contained in demolition waste and prescribes specific tests to determine its composition.

New uses of recycled materials

Materials reclaimed from C&D activities can be reused for:

  • civil engineering earthworks;
  • sub-bases for roads, railways, airports and civil and industrial yards;
  • foundation layers for transport infrastructure;
  • environmental remediation, filling and backfilling;
  • accessory layers with anti-capillary, anti-freeze and drainage functions;
  • concretes and mixes formed with hydraulic binders (such as hydraulically bound cement blends and concrete mixes).

Certification of conformity and safety of reclaimed materials

Reused materials are subject to CE conformity marking. When used in new construction they must not constitute a potential source of soil, subsoil or groundwater contamination.

According to the decree, manufacturers must draw up a declaration of conformity that certifies the characteristics of the reused material and which must be retained for a period of 5 years. Each batch of aggregate must be shown to comply with 29 parameters.

Disposal and reclamation of inert waste

For disposal, inert waste must be sent to suitable landfills or specialist reclamation sites. Construction waste treatment plants are due to be opened in May 2023.

The manufacturer is responsible for the disposal of the materials and must make every effort to treat them properly and in accordance with the decree.

Italian ceramic products comply with European standards 

Italian ceramic products comfortably meet the standards set by the European technical commissions for designing, measuring and verifying the sustainability of building materials. Sustainable building implementation and certification programmes have incentivised their use as durable, hard-wearing and easily reclaimable materials.