resource efficiency

Accelerate the transition to a circular economy
Recycle over 10 million tonnes a year of waste and secondary materials from other sectors.

“Using waste from other industries as fuel for our cement kilns is an excellent way both of contributing to the circular economy and of reducing CO2 emissions.”

Dr Martyn Kenny, sustainability director


Designing out waste at every stage of the product life cycle and developing products with greater durability, performance and longevity, helps to support a circular economy, reduces the demand for natural resources and ensures we supply essential materials to our customers on a sustainable basis.


7 million tonnes

recycled and secondary aggregates used


various local authorities have laid rubber modified asphalt

Over 800,000 tonnes

recycled asphalt plannings used in new asphalt

Designing out waste

Our approach to the circular economy starts with designing out waste from our own operations. Where feasible, unavoidable waste generated by our manufacturing process is reused or recovered internally.  Different kinds of materials can be used in various ways to create secondary or recycled materials for use in our processes and products. For example, at our Tunstead cement plant we use the clay washings from the quarry and the abatement dust from the lime plants, as a raw material. We also use materials that cannot be used in our operations in the creation of internal roads within quarries, or as an inert fill in our quarry restoration schemes. 

With our product knowledge and expertise our technical teams can support our customers to design our waste through purposeful design, doing more with less and extend the life of the buildings and assets built with our products through enhanced durability, designing for reuse and repurposing, and facilitating recycling into new products. 

Using recycled materials

We are rethinking and redesigning our products and components to improve the life-cycle performance of buildings and provide end-of life solutions for our products. Alternative raw materials, waste materials and by-products from other sectors serve as valuable raw materials to replace a portion of the finite virgin materials or clinker used in our cement manufacturing. These co-processing materials currently include fly ash, ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS) and quarry overburden. We also utilise other materials such as old road surfacing (Recycled Asphalt Planings, RAP), construction, demolition and excavation (CD&E) waste, fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS).

As a business we are a net user of waste and secondary materials, using more of other people’s waste than the waste we produce ourselves.

In 2020, we used over 7 million tonnes of waste and secondary materials from other sectors as raw materials in our products and as fuel for our manufacturing processes. Whilst changes to market dynamics and the impacts of COVID-19 meant we were unable to reach our original ambition of 10 million tonnes, over the last 5 years we have used over 41 million tonnes of waste and secondary materials from other industries. In 2020, we only sent around 29,500 tonnes of waste to landfill and recycled 93 percent of the waste generated across our operations.

Total waste generated (hazardous and non-hazardous)

Type Tonnes %
Hazardous waste to landfill 3,788 0.9%
Non-hazardous waste to landfill 24,805* 6.2%
Inert waste to landfill 937 0.2%
Hazardous waste recycled 11,404 2.9%
Non-hazardous waste recycled 261,920 65.77%
Inert waste recycled 95,363 24%
Total Produced 398,218 100%
Total Recycled 368,688 92.6%
Total Produced 29,530 7.4%

*This number includes waste from our infrastructure business that was formed in 2019. Due to the nature of their operations, the total waste can fluctuate dependant on the contract.

We use recycled aggregates and materials in the manufacture of our ready mixed concrete. This includes granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS) from the iron and steel industry, fly ash from coal-fired power stations as cement substitutes, and slag aggregates. Our recycled aggregates are also used in sub-bases and fills to replace primary aggregates.

We also use old waste tyres and old road surfacing (Recycled Asphalt Planings, RAP) in the manufacture of our asphalt products. During 2020, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, we recycled over 800,000 tonnes of RAP in our asphalt products, this represents a contribution of 11 percent of our total asphalt production.

We are helping local authorities across the country including Nottinghamshire County Council to increase the use of more sustainable solutions on their highways, which include materials with a higher proportion of recycled content and those with improved carbon footprints. In 2020, a road in Nottinghamshire became one of the first in the country to be resurfaced with a revolutionary new asphalt made from rubber from recycled waste tyres, which subject to further trials could help to find a use for the 40 million waste tyres that are produced every year in the UK. 


Minimising Packaging Waste

The vast majority of Tarmac’s products are delivered in bulk with no packaging, with some products packed in much smaller quantities for use by construction companies and for sale by distributors. This means we use relatively small amounts of packaging.

Where packaging is a necessity, customer requirements favour a particular packaging type or design, often for safety, quality and environmental reasons. Safe, robust and weatherproof packaging is essential in the supply of packed building products in the UK and required by distributors and end users. In some cases, we use plastic packaging. Plastic is proven to be rip, tear and puncture resistant and shows greater resilience to corrosive materials. This enables products to be stored onsite without impact from weather conditions, prevents damage during transport and protects people handling these goods. As less product is wasted by using this protective packaging, it results in greater environmental benefits. 

Working with our packaging supply chain partners we have been able to reduce the quantity of plastic packaging, increase the recycled content in our plastic packaging by over 30 percent and provide clear instructions about recycling packaging at the end of life. We are now going beyond this and using up to 50 percent recycled plastic in our Blue Circle range, with other lines to follow in 2021. We will continue to identify ways to further reduce our use of virgin materials. 

Beyond packaging, we are exploring how and where plastics are used within our business and are actively working on finding solutions to further reduce our overall use.

Packaging by type

Type Packaging Supplied (Tonnes)
Paper 1,364
Plastic 3,729
Wood 8,800
Metal 0
Total 13,841

Using waste as a fuel

We use waste materials from other industries as part of our waste-derived fuels programme within our cement business. In 2020, we utilised 106,000 tonnes of waste as a substitute for fossil fuels to provide over 41 percent of the heat required in our cement kilns. 

Conserving water

Fresh water is crucial for sustaining healthy communities, business, and natural ecosystems. We have a responsibility to lead our industry in protecting local water resources, promoting responsible water use. Water conservation therefore continues to play an important part of our resource efficiency programme and our efforts to move to a more circular economy.

During the year, we used a total of 15.5 million cubic metres of water, of which 12.6 million cubic metres were abstracted from groundwater and surface water sources, 1.7 million cubic metres from potable water supply and about 1.3 million cubic metres derived from recycled water systems.

A pivotal part of our environmental management system is for each of our operational sites have water management plans in place. The plans help our site managers to map the movement, abstraction, discharge and use of water on site. Identifying opportunities to reduce water use, as well as risks posed in terms of water shortages, flooding and the potential for pollution incidents.

Looking forward

Having reached the end of 2020, we are about to launch the next phase of our sustainability strategy. It is important that we continue to transition our products and operations to support a circular economy. Circular solutions will help to preserve natural resources and will play an important role in the UK’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving this will require collaboration across the construction value chain, eliminating waste from our operations, recycling materials from other industries in our processes and products and working with our customers to enable material efficiency in project design and delivery.