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25. August 2023

Substitute mineral building materials: A new ordinance, a missed chance

REMEX Managing Director Michael Stoll calls for further development of Germany's new Substitute Building Materials Ordinance

No sooner did Germany’s Substitute Building Materials Ordinance come into force on 1 August after years of discussion than criticism of the new regulation became louder again. Already after its adoption in June 2021, the industry had pointed out the need for changes to the new ordinance.

“The sticking point is the lack of regulations on the end of waste status: recycled or substitute building materials – until they are used – still bear the wrong label as waste. To increase their attractiveness for private and public building contractors, they would have to be classified as products,” REMEX Managing Director Michael Stoll makes clear.

Representatives of the construction industry had already warned in spring that the Substitute Building Materials Ordinance did not fulfil expectations with regard to the circular economy, industry media reported at the time. For example, Felix Pakleppa, General Manager of the Central Association of the German Construction Industry (ZDB), complained in April: “To regulate nationwide that quality-assured substitute building materials are no longer waste, but high-quality building products – that would have been the decisive building block for a functioning circular economy and the promotion of the use of recycled building materials in the construction industry”.

Huge potential is not yet being used

More than 200 million tonnes of processed soils, construction waste and industrial mineral waste cannot currently be marketed as high-quality building material products in Germany because they still have to be declared as waste. “In order to strengthen the protection of resources in sand, gravel and other natural stones, the new Substitute Building Materials Ordinance must be developed further immediately,” REMEX Managing Director Stoll demands.

The goal in Germany should also be to bring building materials obtained from recycling more strongly onto the market. Stoll: “What is currently threatening as a result of the EBV is unfortunately exactly the opposite, and is not enough to establish a circular construction industry.”

In order to ensure that substitute building materials are actually used, more commitment is needed from the public sector in procurement. After all, the federal, state and local governments award construction contracts worth many billions of euros every year.

REMEX Managing Director Michael Stoll

A minimum use quota in new building products is also conceivable, explains Stoll. This could be implemented through a voluntary commitment by construction product manufacturers. Furthermore, a halving of the value-added tax for building products with a so-called “minimum recycled content” could noticeably strengthen the circular economy.

Missed opportunity for short-term improvement

The Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), Christian Kühn, had stated in a press release of the Ministry in April: “With the new Substitute Building Materials Ordinance, we are taking a giant step towards a circular economy in the building sector. We are putting an end to the fragmented approach to the issue of recycled building materials and creating uniform rules throughout Germany. But we want to go even further: Secondary building materials that are of high quality and harmless from an environmental point of view should no longer be considered waste. (…) Therefore, in the next step, we need another ordinance that determines when mineral materials are no longer considered waste.”

This would probably also have been possible with an adapted Substitute Building Materials Ordinance. The amending ordinance, however, fell short of the industry’s expectations. During the hearing, associations and companies had very clearly demanded a regulation on the end of waste status for all building materials of all material classes.

Now, federal states such as Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia have announced their own end-of-waste requirements. This would result in different regulations for substitute building materials from state to state – and Germany would be far away from a nationwide uniform and thus reliable planning basis for users.

The industry agrees on the only solution to avoid a renewed regionalism: a uniform end-of-waste regulation must urgently be introduced.

Further information (in German) can be found here:

Image credits: © REMEX


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