Ecological Driveway Materials

Much has been made of the ecological impact of driveways and newer, more ecologically sound materials that are coming on the market. Focus has also been brought to bear on driveways in front gardens and their impact on raising temperatures and worsening floods in urban areas. This is covered in other articles on this site, so here we will be looking at recycled materials.

Being green doesn’t mean one has to be dull, with recycling of materials and thinking about how they fit together into a composition that works. In this article we will take a look at some of the more established approaches, as well as developments in this area.

Different Aspects of Ecological Impact

When it comes to the ecological impact of driveways there are a number of different aspects to cover. Some aspects are going to be the same regardless of the materials used. For example, there will always be the Excavation And Digging to provide a secure foundation, so the use of any mechanical diggers and trucks will result in largely the same ecological impact whatever materials are going to be laid down.

This of course doesn’t make it any less important to do a thorough job, and to recycle or reuse materials as much as possible. This includes the use of any topsoil that may be removed.

Finding Local Recycled Materials

For hardcore to go into the foundations it is obviously better to use rubble from another building project rather than buying bagged aggregate, but not many of us have a handy source of rubble around at the right time. One answer to this is to keep an eye on freecycle and other sources of items that people want to get rid of, such as small ads and newsagents’ windows.

You could go around the neighbourhood in the lead up to your project and, if you see any other building work going on, offer to take any rubble away. They’ll be happy to see it gone without any effort on their part and, as long as you’ve got somewhere to keep it until you begin, it shouldn’t be too much trouble.

If you’ve got a theme going on with your paving, this could be the opportunity to make an effort to get some of the materials needed for that theme. Maybe you can take away bricks from another brick building’s rubble or cobbles from a neighbour’s patio removal.

Surface Dressing Options

The same goes for the top dressing, although you may well want to buy new materials to get a particular look for your new driveway. If you are lucky, you may be able to get some good paving from a reclamation yard.

Although you’ll have to pay more than you would if scavenging it from somewhere, at least it will be delivered, which is a significant benefit when you’re talking about tons and tons of material. There are also a number of suppliers in the UK who specialise in recycled decorative aggregates, and a quick search on the internet will lead you to their websites.

Recycled Aggregates

If there’s isn’t a handy source of top dressing available at the time you are doing your project, you could consider using new surface dressing that’s made from recycled materials. Many of these are basically pebbles or gravel intended to be used either loose or in resin-based surfacing. There are a number of suppliers in the UK who specialise in recycled decorative aggregates and a quick search on the internet will get you to their websites.

Resin-Based Surfacing is slightly problematic from an ecological point of view because of the chemicals used in the manufacture of the resin, and it is also more expensive than tradition driveway methods.

Ecologically Aware New Products

Finally, there are a number of supposedly ecologically sensitive products being released by traditional manufacturers of stone and aggregate driveway products. As well as using recycled raw materials to create the products, they are being delivered on pallets made from recycled wood and with recycled plastic wrapping.

Hardcore eco-warriors would no doubt consider this ‘green-wash’. But if you have to buy new it would surely be better to buy a product such as this than to purchase completely new paving materials. Perhaps they won’t use up as much energy in producing and transporting them, and their manufacture will be less harmful to the environment than that of a traditional product from a quarry.

It could also be argued that recycling is only beneficial if it has an environmental advantage over doing nothing; simply taking waste materials and making something out of them so that they can be used again isn’t recycling and doesn’t have any environmental benefits.


There is no real right or wrong about the use of recycled materials in driveway foundations. If you are choosing hardcore from a quarry, it may save you a little money to go with the rubble rather than buying bagged material. If you are using surface dressing or tarmac, it could save you a bit of money to reuse materials from the surroundings. If your driveway is purely aesthetic and doesn’t have a functional purpose, then you can be as creative as you like with your materials and they will be fine for the project.

The main thing to remember is not to use recycled materials in excess or at the expense of new, more traditional materials.


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