From collecting aluminium once used in skyscrapers to building houses with self-healing cement and turning bottles into bricks, new ways of reusing valuable waste are being explored.
Truly sustainable cities of the future will not differentiate between waste and resource. Rather, they will understand waste as the starting point for something new. Ideas and initiatives are taking shape that provide a glimpse of how we could build our urban environments more sustainably in the future.
Cities are gradually becoming the mines of the future, while traditional mines dry up. Natural resources required for the production of construction materials like sand and gravel are depleting, but stand in huge piles in our urban environment.
The technology to recycle copper has been in place for decades and specialist firms already recover the metallic waste from old electrical cables.
At the Design Academy in Eindhoven, Tom van Soest, co-founder of StoneCycling, developed a method to pulverise recycled building materials from demolition sites to create a new type of stone that can be turned into products like surface materials and tiles.
All over the world technologists are developing practical and economic ways to convert waste into re-usable construction materials.
Photo: United Bottle’s project uses plastic bottles that can instantly function as building bricks. Photograph: United Bottle Group