Some people are surprised to learn that concrete can be recycled. But when they think about it, it starts to make perfect sense.
After all, concrete is made with natural ingredients. When we examine how concrete is recycled, we’ll see each of those natural ingredients come into play.
How is concrete recycled? Let’s find out!
First of all, it’s important to understand that whether or not concrete is recycled, it still maintains a tremendous level of energy efficiency in its manufactured form. Thus, we find that concrete is an eco-friendly material at all stages of its life cycle: production, installation and service life, and any potential reuse and recycling.
At Columbia Precast Products, we manufacture our concrete while recycling the process water. We also use energy efficiencies elsewhere, including in our facility lighting and in the mapping and coordination of our delivery processes.
Once installed at the job site, precast concrete lasts for decades with little to no maintenance. This eliminates the need for upkeep and replacement.
But let’s say that a concrete structure is redesigned or rebuilt. Or perhaps a facility is storing excess concrete. In each of these situations, concrete can be recycled.
The Recycling Process
The concrete recycling process is ingenious in its simplicity; it usually involves pulverizing the concrete rubble at the demolition site. (Some job sites use a portable crusher.) The concrete is then screened to remove dirt and separated into large pieces of concrete and small aggregate.
There are a variety of screening and separating methods (magnets, water, and/or air separators). In some cases, pulverizing the concrete is avoided in favor of processes that make it easier to separate the pieces and avoid contamination.
Recycled concrete is used everywhere, including pavement, building foundations, retaining walls, landscaping, and sidewalks. It can also be used to make new precast concrete forms using recycled concrete aggregate.
In addition to the environmental benefits of recycling itself, the process helps avoid the need to mine other materials. It also saves water, reduces material being trucked to landfills, and creates jobs.
Recycling and reusing concrete waste from construction and demolition sites help manufacturers avoid the use of raw materials for new construction projects. Recycled crushed concrete, used in new asphalt pavement, concrete pavement, and parking lots, prevents the use of natural resources at construction sites.
Billions of tons of concrete are produced each year worldwide. The demand is expected to grow in the coming decades. Thus, reuse and recycling measures can be implemented to ease the strain on our planet while still continuing to meet the needs of the next generation of builders and developers.