Why Britain Shouldn’t Rely On Overseas Imports Of Aggregate In Today’s Global Climate


The United Kingdom has a long history of importing aggregate from other countries. In fact, around 50% of the aggregate used in the UK is imported. However, there are a number of reasons why sourcing aggregate domestically is preferable to importing it from abroad. 

The Importance Of Aggregates

Aggregates are an essential component of Britain’s construction industry; without them, the wide range of structures we rely on would simply not exist – from multi-lane highways to tiny pedestrian bridges, from towering skyscrapers to schools, hospitals, and other public buildings. In fact, the average size school or hospital requires 15,000 tons of aggregate.

The demand for aggregates in Britain is on the rise, spurred on by large-scale construction projects and other industrial developments. Unfortunately, the slow process of granting permission for new quarries to meet this increased demand has resulted in a considerable lag time. 

Why Importing Isn't The Answer

In recent years, Britain has become increasingly reliant on imports of aggregate to meet rising demand. Aggregates are now frequently sourced from overseas, primarily crushed rock from Scandinavia and marine sand from the near continent.

The transportation process needed brings about an array of implications for global climate change, as importing and exporting material leads to increased CO2 emissions. In addition, prices have been rising steadily for some time, and political unease in many parts of the world has led to wars and other instability. 

Relying solely on overseas imports carries with it far too much economic risk. Whilst current imports of aggregate from overseas destinations only account for 5 million tonnes per year, it is essential that Britain does not allow this figure to rise in the future. 

Reducing The UK's Reliance On Imported Aggregate

Responsibly sourcing and using aggregate materials must be a priority within the British building industry to ensure that high-quality infrastructure remains affordable and attainable for decades to come.

Fortunately, we can reduce our reliance on imports in a number of ways. Increased recycling is one option; civil engineering applications such as road bridges and large-scale building projects can take advantage of recycled materials rather than using additional natural resources. 

Other potential solutions include finding alternative materials to fill the gap left by reduced imports, such as gravel from local sources or special types of concrete developed from industrial waste materials. Increasing reuse and exploring alternatives could be an important step towards reducing the UK’s reliance on imported aggregate.