The efficiency of recycled concrete
For most modern concrete buildings, it’s not failures in the concrete due to age that tend to trigger the end of useful life but the reality that no other use can be found for it. However, concrete is an incredibly versatile material and if it’s necessary for a building to be demolished, the concrete that it’s made of can now potentially be used as a source of recycled aggregate for many other purposes.
The construction industry can do better
In environmental terms, the construction industry has many obstacles to overcome. For example, it generates around 150 million tonnes of waste annually and uses 295 million tonnes of virgin material every year. However, it’s not all bad news, as there are already measures in place to help combat this. Currently, around 46 million tonnes of construction waste is recycled and used in building products, land reclamation etc, significantly reducing the necessity of new virgin materials to feed the constant needs of the industry. Recycled concrete provides a very effective and efficient way to help improve the green standards across the sector by minimising this demand.
The benefits of recycled concrete
Recycled concrete can be easily and efficiently used in a number of different ways throughout construction. For example, it can be used in granular sub bases, in new concrete and also in soil cement. Concrete is a pretty versatile material and this makes it ideal as a recyclable resource. Concrete can be made from recycled materials and then the concrete itself can be recycled so it offers the potential for a much more environmentally friendly way forward all around. Concrete pieces that have come from structures that are demolished can also have other uses, for example in gabion walls to protect shorelines.
Recycling concrete and other materials
About half of the concrete that is created in the UK is reinforced and this, too, can be a greener process. While structural steel may be made from virgin materials, reinforcing steel is usually produced from recycled components. Plus, like concrete, it can be recovered at the end of the life of a building and then go on to be recycled or reused elsewhere. The process of manufacturing steel is pretty energy-intensive. However, it’s worth noting that producing a tonne of reinforcing steel requires only about half the energy that is necessary to make a tonne of structural steel that is being produced from iron ore.
Efficiency in the cement production process
Cement plants can also play a role in improving efficiency when it comes to reducing waste. For example, there are laws against dumping old tyres in landfills but the UK currently produces around 400,000 tonnes of waste tyres every year. These tyres are ideal kiln fuel for cement production – using them has no adverse environmental effects, reduces excess waste and also helps to avoid the need for other fuels made from virgin materials or more polluting sources.
Recycled concrete has a huge amount to offer the construction sector when it comes to improving environmental standards. From the endless potential for reuse to the efficiencies that can be introduced into the production process, it’s a winning solution all around.