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The ReCon Soil project is studying the potential reuse of surplus materials from the construction industry.

Waste from the construction industry could provide a safe and sustainable source of healthy soils thanks to a new cross-Channel research project.

The €2.5million ReCon Soil project, supported by €1.8million from the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, started in April 2021 and will run until June 2023.

It brings together scientists, industry and educators to revolutionise how waste material from construction projects is managed, both from a scientific and regulatory perspective.

The project aims to halt the amounts being paid by the industry to dispose of waste soil from building sites across the UK and France – currently estimated at more than €3.5billion per annum

ReCon Soil is being led by researchers at the University of Plymouth (UK), who have extensive experience in the development of reconstructed soils and the wider physical and social impacts of soil erosion and degradation. Working with a range of partners in the UK and France, they will develop and roll out at least three new soil recipes made from locally-sourced construction waste and agricultural by-products. These recipes will initially be thoroughly investigated in laboratories in Plymouth, and then at sites in the UK and France, to monitor their effectiveness and potential environmental impact. The data from those studies will then be incorporated into blueprints detailing when and where the soils can be deployed, and any amendments needed to ensure their effective deployment.

The project will also train 200 workers, helping to take reconstructed soils from research to commercialisation.

The world is hugely reliant on good quality soils for food security and their ability to store carbon. However, soils are under both human and climate pressures which means there is a need to develop resilient and sustainable alternatives. Human intervention to sustain and improve soil was an ancient practice in the Amazon Basin and reconstructed soils can unquestionably be part of future solutions to soil health and climate mitigation. This project offers the exciting prospect of focussing the scientific and practical expertise of the project team to develop healthy soils and enable this process to be rolled out in the UK, France and beyond.

Mark Fitzsimons
Professor of Environmental Chemistry at the University of Plymouth
Recon Soil Project Principal Investigator

 

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