Recycling excavated earth from potentially polluted sites and soils

You are a quarry operator, a developer or a public works contractor and you are not sure how to manage and recycle your excavated earth? The BRGM can provide support, from sampling to characterisation and treatment of these excavated soils.
Rehabilitation work on a brownfield site

Rehabilitation work on a brownfield site for conversion to residential use (off-site reuse of excavated earth) (2013).

© BRGM - Fabien Lion

Your issues and needs

Every year in France, almost 130 million tonnes of earth are excavated for infrastructure and development projects. Considered as waste if it is removed from its site of origin (Waste Framework Directive 2008), this earth raises a number of questions concerning its reuse or disposal and requires specific treatment.  

Beyond the problems posed by the issue of polluted sites and soils, management of earth represents a major challenge for construction and demolition waste treatment. The potential for recycling or reusing this earth is particularly interesting, provided the environmental issues (protection of groundwater) and health concerns (protection of future users of the land) connected with its reuse as landfill for development projects are successfully tackled.

Our added value

Apart from its contribution to the production of the various guides on the characterisation and off-site management of excavated earth, the BRGM is committed to implementing a coherent strategy to support relevant players by:  

  • Producing territorial audits and feasibility studies to set up processes for the recycling of excavated earth through the creation of transit hubs;  
  • Developing sampling and characterisation methodologies for this excavated earth;   
  • Developing the technology for computer-based excavated earth exchange platforms in order to improve traceability
  • Developing pilot programmes for the treatment of polluted excavated earth and assessing their environmental impact;  
  • Ensuring sustainability of treatment solutions for excavated earth based on ageing tests and modelling tools;
  • Providing training in recycling excavated earth as part of polluted site and soil rehabilitation projects.
A construction machine, Austria

A construction machine loading earth (Austria, 2012).

© Photo 5000 - Fotolia

Analytical tools and platforms

  • PRIME: Platforms for remediation and innovation in environmental metrology  
  • CARAPHY: Physico-chemical and textural characterisation 
  • CARMIN: Mineralogical and crystallographic characterisation 
  • IN’ORGA: Organic and inorganic chemical analysis 


  • Guide to off-site reuse of excavated earth from potentially polluted sites and soils in development projects (2020)
  • Guide to characterisation of excavated earth in the context of reuse off-site in development projects and using road construction techniques in linear transport infrastructure projects (2020)
  • TERRASS: online excavated earth management and traceability application 
  • HYDROTEX: calculation of the impact of excavated earth on water resources
  • BDSolU: urban earth quality database

Some references

  • Technical and scientific assistance for the creation of an excavated earth recycling process as part of an urban regeneration operation;
  • Developing methods to characterise urban geochemical backgrounds and building the BDSolU database;
  • Developing methods to characterise and stabilise contaminants in excavated earth from the Greater Paris Express metro line;
  • Producing a pilot project for an on-site excavated earth treatment platform;
  • Developing innovative processes to reconstruct and restore function to soils from urban waste, including excavated earth, as substitutes for topsoil.
A construction machine dumping earth

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