Is excavated earth unlike other waste products? Without traceability, its re-use can spread pollution. But it is also a precious resource, because it is non-renewable.
13 May 2024

In France, excavated earth, which is extracted from the ground and subsurface, particularly during development projects, accounts for the largest volume of waste produced, with more than 100 million tonnes of earth moved every year.

Recycling it is often problematic: as with any waste, it has to be managed satisfactorily to avoid harming people's health and the environment. When sent to landfills, this earth takes the place of other waste and saturates landfill facilities. But its re-use without special precautions can pollute the environment.

However, this amount of earth could be very useful, in particular for recreating soil. Excavated earth is a precious non-renewable resource.

TERRASS, a little-known excavated-earth exchange

Mindful of the environmental problem posed by excavated earth, BRGM introduced a methodology in 2012 to provide a framework for its off-site recovery. 

The guidebooks distributed are based on three criteria that must be met simultaneously:

  • preserving the quality of ground, to avoid spreading pollution,
  • there should be no impact on water resources,
  • there should be no impact on human health.

Although the official methodology has been available for 10 years, the off-site recycling of excavated earth for development projects is not yet fully operational.

For example, BRGM's public land exchange, TERRASS is not being used to its full potential, mainly because it is not well known. 

This free tool:

  • puts the managers of work sites with surplus excavated earth in touch with others who need it,
  • provides a contractual framework for transactions,
  • enables the various players involved to archive information relating to transporting of excavated earth and to declare it in order to comply with regulatory obligations.