June – Recycling of natural resources

We have chosen to focus the June story on a tangible, measurable and relatable topic for all Danes. Colas business practices mean it is more sustainable to drive on Danish roads.

For a number of years, Colas has been experimenting with recycling asphalt to minimize the import of raw materials within an otherwise CO2 heavy industry.

Colas focuses on recycling asphalt for pavements. This benefits the environment through recycling, less bitumen (the black binder of the stones in the asphalt) being used and fewer imports of stone materials, which also reduces the need for costly freight and shipping.

Recycled asphalt is an area of great potential. In 2018, Colas saved 3,740 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to 2,000 flights from Copenhagen to New York or 23 million hours of Netflix. By mixing milled asphalt into the new asphalt, we simultaneously consume fewer raw materials and solve the problem of landfill for the old asphalt, making it more environmentally friendly. That's common sense!

Danish motorists now drive over more environmentally friendly asphalt. A project supported by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proved that up to 30 percent of the top layer of asphalt, the so-called wear layer, can be replaced with recycled asphalt from old roads without compromising the quality whereas previously, recycled asphalt only made up around 10 percent of the wear layer. In 2019, the rules were changed so that up to 30 percent recycled material in wear layers had to be added, and in January 2020 the rules were changed again, after which there is no longer a maximum for recycling asphalt in most products. This is a long-awaited development that is of great benefit to the environment.

However, this is not all that Colas recycles, used newspapers and other residual products can also be used in asphalt production.

Colas is also working on environmental improvements in several other areas. In 2018, the company replaced ordinary diesel with the cleaner GTL fuel at its own natural gas-fired tank plants, which emit up to 38 percent fewer health-damaging particles. This is of great importance to a company that is heavily reliant on construction machinery every day.

At Mazars, we find Colas' business practices innovative and interesting, as they make sustainability measurable and tangible, whereas measuring sustainability for a business is usually an abstract concept.

“As part of the international Colas Group, we have access to important research, which is the result of collaboration between the Colas Group companies, the Group's asphalt laboratories, researchers, customers and partners throughout the world. The economies of scale in the Colas Group make the development of new sustainable and innovative products more profitable, and this has an impact on the products we can offer our customers.”

Hans Oluf Krog, CEO Colas Danmark A/S

Read more about Colas' other sustainable solutions such as the “Vandvejen”, permeable asphalt, Vegecol and the solar cell road Wattway here.

For more information on Colas' many sustainable initiatives, download the latest CSR report here.