Urban Mining – Heidelberg on the Way to Becoming Europe‘s First Circular Municipality

© Klaus Venus
Is that garbage? ‘No,’ says the city of Heidelberg – and it is using urban mining as a response to the climate crisis and the shortage of resources.

Out of sight, out of mind – that is probably the best description of the way we usually treat waste. This also applies to the largest current source of waste materials: the demolition of buildings. About half of the waste which is currently disposed of in Germany is construction and demolition waste. Only a small part is recycled, and that is usually in an inferior form compared with the original use. Materials which are disposed of in construction or demolition work – such as concrete, steel, timer or plastics – usually land on waste tips or as landfill in road construction, although they are bitterly needed in new construction projects and are prohibitively expensive. The German city of Heidelberg now wants to change this. It is the first city in Europe to apply the urban mining principle in a pilot project with the title Circular City – Gebäude-Materialkataster für die Stadt Heidelberg (in English: ‘construction materials cadaster for the city of Heidelberg’). The project is supported by the local company HeidelbergCement AG, which is one of the largest building materials enterprises in the world.

Moreover the city uses the materials platform Madaster, designed by the environmental advisors of EPEA, a subsidiary of the consulting company Drees & Sommer SE.

In this pilot project, Heidelberg aims to be a pioneer in applying the circular economy to urban development and urban construction. For Jürgen Odszuck, Heidelberg’s First Deputy Mayor and responsible for the departments in charge of urban development and construction, urban mining is a decisive step towards achieving the climate goals of the city: ‘At the latest by 2050 we want to achieve climate neutrality and to halve the energy demand of the municipality. We can only achieve this if we start now to focus on the enormous volume of energy and resources which is consumed as a result of construction work. Urban mining must play a key role as a modern way to extract materials resources in the city.’

More information you could find in the Press release.