The impact of innovative technologies in construction activities on concrete debris recycling in China : a system dynamics-based analysis

Zhang, Ning and Konyalıoğlu, Aziz Kemal and Duan, Huabo and Feng, Haibo and Li, Huanyu (2024) The impact of innovative technologies in construction activities on concrete debris recycling in China : a system dynamics-based analysis. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 26 (6). pp. 14039-14064. ISSN 1573-2975 (

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As construction activities become more intensive in developing countries, increasing improperly managed construction and demolition waste (CDW) brings serious environmental impacts. Recycling is a beneficial way to dispose of CDW that reduces environmental impact and brings economic benefits, especially for concrete. China is the country that generates the most CDW in the world, but its domestic recycling rate is much lower than that of developed countries. While the efficient technologies in developed regions have helped them to achieve a well-established recycling industry, whether these innovative technologies can be used to improve the concrete debris recycling targets in developing regions is unclear. This study examines whether innovations currently widely used in construction activities and materials can have a positive effect on the recycling of End-of-Life concrete materials in China. Results from modeling system dynamics imply that the introduction of innovative technologies in the recycling system of concrete debris can probably contribute to CO2 reduction (3.6% reduction) and economic benefits (2.6 times increase, but mainly from landfill charges and fines) from 2022 to 2030. Prefabrication and 3D printing significantly impact recycled concrete production and CDW recycling, and they are recommended as a priority for promotion. In contrast, carbonation is not suggested for application due to its minor role. Nevertheless, since the market share of innovative technologies and the basic CDW recycling rates are currently low in China, fluctuations in their usage are hardly to have a substantial positive impact. We suggest that financial support from the government is needed for upcycling by recyclers and technology providers to improve the base recycling rate in order for innovative technologies to make an effective contribution to the sustainable construction industry, creating a win–win situation for both the economy and the environment of the recycling system.