Concrete is the second most consumed material in the world after water. It surrounds us in the form of buildings and infrastructure. Due to it’s high usage, it is also often discarded. Demolitions often result in plenty of leftover concrete that needs to be hauled away. Sometimes it ends up in a landfill where it could sit for centuries. But, concrete doesn’t have to follow this path. Old concrete can be reused and given new life. How? Through recycling.
How is concrete recycled?
Concrete from demolished buildings, sidewalks and roads must be taken to a concrete recycling facility. There, the concrete is broken into smaller pieces using grinding machines. Once the concrete has been broken down, it is sorted. Any remaining larger chunks are often ground again.
In order to be useful, the concrete must not be mixed with any other materials, such as wood or rebar. A magnet is typically used to remove any rebar that may be present in the ground concrete. The concrete can also be placed in water so that any contaminants float to the top. Once the sorting and cleaning process is complete, the recycled concrete is ready to use.
Uses for Recycled Concrete
There are a number of uses of recycled concrete:
- Aggregates While cement cannot be extracted from recycled concrete, it can be used for building purposes. When mixing concrete, aggregates are used to reduce the amount of expensive cement required. Recycled concrete can form a part of (but not eliminate or replace completely) these aggregates, which typically include sand, gravel or similar. This reduces the use of other virgin aggregates.
- Sub-base Gravel in Road Construction Before laying new roads, a layer of gravel must be used. Instead of using new gravel, construction companies can use recycled gravel.
- Riprap Ground concrete can serve to help prevent erosion along shorelines, streambeds, bridge abutments and other structures at the water’s edge.
- Landscaping When crushed very evenly, recycled concrete can even serve in landscaping applications in place of rock or gravel. It helps prevent erosion, covers the soil and can be very pleasing visually.
- Retaining Walls Gabions are mesh boxes filled with rocks used as retaining walls. Rather than hauling in rocks, larger pieces of recycled concrete can be used to fill the gabions.
- Large Slab Reuse When demolishing concrete structures, sometimes large slabs can be salvaged, depending on how they’re cut. These slabs can be used as is or cut into smaller blocks for use in some applications.
Why it’s Important to Recycle Concrete
Recycling concrete is an important step in caring for the environment. As landfills reach capacity, avoiding placing more materials there is important. In addition, where recycled concrete is used, the use of other materials is evaded. In many of these cases, where recycled concrete replaces the use of gravel or sand, hauling costs and emissions are saved.
Recycling concrete can reduce costs and provide an environmentally friendly solution for lowering the use of commonly used aggregates when mixing cement. As awareness of this practice increases, more specialists in demolitions and constructions can practice concrete recycling.
Accu-Cut can help you with your demolition and often make use of cement recycling centers. Give us a call at (310) 327-3454 to discuss your needs.