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Urban mining: Recycling bricks for a circular economy

The city as a source of raw materials: Using innovative methods, such as urban mining, Wienerberger creates circular products. A brick from the Netherlands as a case in point.

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Reusing raw materials for building construction, safeguarding their long-term availability, and avoiding waste – this is the key to the circular economy. To meet the climate targets of the European Green Deal by 2050, Wienerberger adopts innovative approaches and sets the course for the future. There is great potential in urban mining, as demonstrated by the CicloBrick, a facing brick developed within the framework of a current pilot project in the Netherlands. 

What is urban mining?

In urban mining, cities serve as a source of raw material. The huge amounts of materials accumulated in cities are to stay in the value cycle. For example, valuable building materials are reclaimed through the strategic demolition of buildings. They can then be reused or processed as secondary raw materials for new products.

CicloBrick: A brick containing recycled material

For the production of the CicloBrick, Wienerberger Netherlands uses local river clay, sustainably extracting less of this self-regenerating basic raw material than is deposited in bodies of water. Additionally, the brick contains 20% ceramic residues reclaimed in the selective demolition of buildings. “By reducing the volume of waste through the integration of recycled materials and designing a circularity-oriented building solution for the future, we are taking a further step toward the circular economy with our CicloBrick”, emphasizes Tanja Bongers, Marketing Director of Wienerberger Netherlands.  

This pioneering facing brick is the product of close cooperation with New Horizon, the Dutch urban mining pioneer. "We greatly appreciate the opportunity to cooperate with committed and innovative partners. Cooperation within the framework of our multi-disciplinary working group covers all topics from design and testing to the marketing of the CicloBrick”, says Tanja Bongers. Since 2015, New Horizon has supplied production sites and distribution partners in the Netherlands with high-quality materials reclaimed from the demolition of buildings.

„By reducing the volume of waste through the integration of recycled materials and designing a circularity-oriented building solution for the future, we are taking a further step toward the circular economy with our CicloBrick.“

Tanja Bongers

Marketing Director of Wienerberger Netherlands

Valuable secondary raw materials reclaimed through urban mining

Wienerberger receives recyclable ceramic raw material reclaimed by New Horizon through urban mining. The material is crushed and ground before it can be used for the production of the CicloBrick. Together with river clay, the recycled additive forms the basis for the waste-avoiding facing brick. At the end of its useful life, the natural CicloBrick can be reused, with the material remaining in a closed cycle. “In the future, we hope to further increase the percentage of recycled material used. In our efforts, we always focus on Wienerberger’s target of creating recyclable or reusable building solutions of the highest possible quality”, explains Tanja Bongers.

“In the future, we hope to further increase the percentage of recycled material used. In our efforts, we always focus on Wienerberger’s target of creating recyclable or reusable building solutions of the highest possible quality.”

Tanja Bongers

Marketing Director of Wienerberger Netherlands

Wienerberger is part of New Horizon’s Urban Mining Collective. This network of producers and other industry pioneers aims to exchange knowledge and advance the circular economy. Since February 2022, small quantities of the CicloBrick have been produced at Wienerberger’s Bemmel production site. “We are thus gaining valuable know-how that can help us achieve an even higher level of sustainability in the future”, notes Tanja Bongers. Demo sessions are being organized to familiarize major customers with the CicloBrick and inform them about the underlying principles of circularity.

A brick made from river clay and raw materials reclaimed through urban mining: Currently, the characteristic CicloBrick produced in the Netherlands comes in red, orange and bronze. 

Circular economy reduces waste and saves resources

In the coming decades, urban mining will be gaining in importance. For Wienerberger, however, this is but one approach to the circular economy. In cooperation with partners, the company is developing innovative solutions for enhanced resource efficiency. Recyclability and reusability are aspects taken into account from the early phase of product design. This is entirely in line with the Wienerberger Sustainability Program 2023: As of  2023, all new Wienerberger products are to be reusable or recyclable. Through the use of secondary raw materials, the company contributes toward reducing the volume of waste generated, saving natural resources, and safeguarding their availability for generations to come.

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