Researcher in Residence: Circularity in the transport sector

transport sector

Due to a collaborative project between Connected Places Catapult and the University of Liverpool’s Dr Haopeng Wang, a transformative Researcher in Residence project is set to reshape the landscape of sustainability in the UK’s transport sector and infrastructure. 

With the infrastructure industry accounting for 16% of the nation’s carbon emissions and influencing an additional 37%, the need for innovative approaches is clear. This project focuses specifically on circular economy principles, aiming to integrate them into the management of construction materials used in the transport infrastructure sector.

Transport infrastructure, which includes roads, railways, waterways, airports, and related facilities, plays a pivotal role in connecting communities and businesses, fostering economic growth, productivity and overall quality of life. This project will delve into the circularity potential of key construction materials like asphalt, concrete, and steel.

The methodology encompasses a comprehensive approach, combining literature reviews, field visits, and on-site interviews. The literature review will summarise current technologies and innovations enhancing construction material circularity, considering economic and environmental impacts along with technology readiness levels. Field investigations and interviews will provide real-world insights into current practices, business models, and policy frameworks related to construction materials management.

Haopeng said: “The project aligns with EPSRC’s thematic areas of circular economy and strategic priorities of engineering Net Zero. This project directly addresses EPSRC’s Strategy and Delivery plan by focussing on one of the six strategic objectives “world-class impacts” via the “discovery, development and deployment of solutions to tackle climate change, enhance sustainability and ensure economic prosperity and fairness”. 

“The UK’s capabilities and leadership in transport infrastructure will be enhanced via the implementation of construction material circularity. Specifically, the potential outcome of this project will help the transport construction industry and material producers to develop strategies in material efficiency/recycling for long-term sustainability, manage material processing and design for best resilience, provide opportunities for cost saving in infrastructure materials, and support broad engineering research of construction materials for future infrastructure challenges in the UK.”

The project aligns with the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, aiming for an 80% reduction by 2050. The circular economy approach gains prominence as it addresses the pressing need for sustainable practices in construction, maintenance, and waste disposal associated with infrastructural development.

Circular economy principles, treating waste as a valuable resource in a continuous closed material loop, have gained momentum globally. The project not only aims to develop a circularity framework for construction materials but also seeks to provide pathways and strategies for enabling material circularity in the transport infrastructure sector.

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