Concrete recycling - How does it work?

May 16, 2023

Concrete recycling is a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to the growing problem of waste management in the construction industry. This process involves the breaking, removing, and crushing of concrete waste to create new materials that can be used in various construction projects. 

The practice of recycling concrete not only reduces the need for raw materials but also minimizes waste sent to landfills. In this article, we will explore the process of recycling concrete and its benefits to contractors and the environment.

Read more: How to make concrete more sustainable and read our summary of the PAS 2080

Recycling concrete: The process

The recycling of demolished concrete and masonry is a growing trend, as more and more construction companies realize the potential for reusing these materials. This eco-friendly process starts with the collection and transportation of concrete waste from construction sites to recycling facilities. Here's a brief overview of how the process works.

1. Collection and transportation

  1. Concrete waste is collected from demolition sites.
  2. Waste is transported to a concrete recycling facility.

2. Crushing and sorting

  1. Concrete waste is broken into smaller pieces.
  2. A crusher machine processes the waste into various sizes.
  3. A sorting process separates the concrete from other debris, like wood or metal.

3. Reusing the recycled concrete

  1. Recycled concrete is used as aggregate in new construction projects.
  2. It can also be used in road bases, sub-bases, and backfill materials.

The benefits of concrete recycling for contractors

Concrete recycling is becoming increasingly popular due to the numerous benefits associated with it. By incorporating recycled concrete into their projects, contractors can significantly reduce costs while promoting sustainable construction practices. Some of the advantages include:

Cost savings 

Recycling concrete proves to be more cost-effective than sourcing new materials, allowing contractors to save on disposal fees associated with waste materials. Additionally, using recycled concrete results in lower transportation costs due to the reduced need to move raw materials from one location to another. This, in turn, leads to lower overall project expenses and increased profitability for construction companies.

Environmental benefits

Concrete recycling has a significant positive impact on the environment. By reusing waste materials, the process decreases the demand for newly extracted raw materials, thereby preserving natural resources. It also helps in reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills, which not only saves valuable space but also minimizes environmental pollution caused by waste accumulation.

Energy savings

The recycling concrete process consumes less energy when compared to the extraction and processing of new raw materials. By using recycled concrete, energy consumption is reduced in various stages, such as mining, manufacturing, and transportation. 

As a result, this energy-efficient approach contributes to a more sustainable construction industry and helps reduce the overall carbon footprint.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions

Utilizing recycled concrete significantly lowers the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacturing of new concrete. These emissions are produced during the extraction, processing, and transportation of raw materials, which contribute to climate change. 

By opting for concrete recycling, construction companies can actively participate in the reduction of harmful emissions and promote a greener, more eco-friendly construction process. This is important since there are many environmental impacts of construction and concrete.

Read more: Technology that makes concrete more sustainable and sustainable concrete mixes.

Picure showing lots of factory smoke

The benefits of concrete recycling for the environment

Waste management in concrete recycling is not only beneficial for contractors but also for the environment. Here are some ways in which concrete recycling contributes to environmental conservation:

  1. Conservation of natural resources: By recycling concrete, the demand for natural resources such as sand, gravel, and limestone is reduced.
  2. Reduced landfill waste: Concrete recycling helps reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills, thus saving valuable space and reducing environmental pollution.
  3. Lower carbon footprint: The recycling of demolished concrete and masonry helps lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction, processing, and transportation of new raw materials.

Important things to consider

While concrete recycling has numerous benefits, it is essential to ensure that the quality of the recycled materials is maintained. Proper quality control measures should be implemented during the recycling concrete process to ensure that the end products meet the required standards for use in new construction projects.

In conclusion, concrete recycling is an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution for waste management in the construction industry. It contributes significantly to conserving natural resources, reducing landfill waste, and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. By adopting the process of recycling concrete, contractors can save money and promote sustainable construction practices, making it a win-win for both the industry and the environment.

Read more: We give our best tips on how to use recycled concrete safely. 

Frequently asked questions

Is concrete worth recycling?

The quality, as well as the durability and strength, of concrete made by recycled concrete has been questioned. But as long as a company is on top with their quality assurance, recycled concrete is a solid eco-friendly alternative to regular concrete. 

Can concrete be biodegradable?

Concrete is not biodegradable. However, like we explain in this article, it is recyclable and by recycling concrete the concrete industry can minimize their carbon footprint.

What type of concrete is most sustainable?

There are multiple types of what is called “Green concrete”. Recycled concrete or green concrete are considered to be the most sustainable type of concrete.

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