Concrete recycling

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Concrete from a building being sent to a portable crusher. This is the first step to recycling concrete.

When structures made of concrete are demolished or renovated, concrete recycling is an increasingly common method of utilizing the rubble. Concrete was once routinely trucked to landfills for disposal, but recycling has a number of benefits that have made it a more attractive option in this age of greater environmental awareness, more environmental laws, and the desire to keep construction costs down.[1]

Concrete aggregate collected from demolition sites is put through a crushing machine. Crushing facilities accept only uncontaminated concrete, which must be free of trash, wood, paper and other such materials. Metals such as rebar are accepted, since they can be removed with magnets and other sorting devices and melted down for recycling elsewhere.[citation needed] The remaining aggregate chunks are sorted by size. Larger chunks may go through the crusher again. After crushing has taken place, other particulates are filtered out through a variety of methods including hand-picking and water flotation.[2]

Crushing at the actual construction site using portable crushers reduces construction costs and the pollution generated when compared with transporting material to and from a quarry. Large road-portable plants can crush concrete and asphalt rubble at 600 tons per hour or more. These systems normally consist of a rubble crusher, side discharge conveyor, screening plant, and a return conveyor from the screen to the crusher inlet for reprocessing oversize materials. Compact, self-contained mini-crushers are also available that can handle up to 150 tons per hour and fit into tighter areas. With the advent of crusher attachments - those connected to various construction equipment, such as excavators - the trend towards recycling on-site with smaller volumes of material is growing rapidly. These attachments encompass volumes of 100 tons/hour and less.[3]

Uses of recycled concrete[edit]

Smaller pieces of concrete are used as gravel for new construction projects. Sub-base gravel is laid down as the lowest layer in a road, with fresh concrete or asphalt poured over it.[4] The US Federal Highway Administration may use techniques such as these to build new highways from the materials of old highways.[5] Crushed recycled concrete can also be used as the dry aggregate for brand new concrete if it is free of contaminants. Also, concrete pavements can be broken in place and used as a base layer for an asphalt pavement through a process called rubblization.[6]

Larger pieces of crushed concrete can be used as riprap revetments,[7] which are "a very effective and popular method of controlling streambank erosion."[8]

With proper quality control at the crushing facility, well graded and aesthetically pleasing materials can be provided as a substitute for landscaping stone or mulch.[4]

Wire gabions (cages), can be filled with crushed concrete and stacked together to provide economical retaining walls. Stacked gabions are also used to build privacy screen walls (in lieu of fencing).[citation needed]

Use of recycled coarse aggregate in concrete[edit]

Recent statistics showed that the increasing demand of construction aggregate reach to 48.3 billion metric tons by the year 2015 with the highest consumption being in Asia and Pacific.[9] The highly demand of concrete means more new building or public constructions will be constructed after the demolition of old buildings. This showed the large amount of C&D (construction waste & demolition waste) waste were generated due to the economy growth of the world. However, the most common way to disposal those waste is landfill. Without proper sorting and handling of it, as time passing, landfill will cause many environmental problems such as air pollution and water pollution. The constantly mining and use of resources such as raw materials for concrete making caused the shortage of resources. The resource scarcity and environmental problems caused by C&D waste landfill made each country start thinking about develop a sustainable path to achieve both the economic and social win situation, and also achieve the coordinate development of civil engineering with the environmental protection and resource conservation. At present, more country realized the importance of C&D waste recycling.

In general, the reuse and recycle of construction waste is concentrated in the preparation of recycled aggregate for concrete. By adding a portion of recycled aggregate instead of natural aggregate coarse into the mixture, producing the recycled concrete, which can conserve energy for concrete production.

Strength and Durability of the recycled aggregate[edit]

According to "The Effect of Recycled Coarse", the results of experiments showed that "the recycled aggregate absorption value is 7.5% which is higher than the WSDOT specification of aggregate in 3.7% maximum.[10] This is because of the paste on the gravel which will influence the absorption of water. Therefore, the recycled aggregate satisfies the absorption specification. Also, add different portions of recycled aggregate to the mixture will have different degrees of influences on the specific gravity, characteristic strength, compressive strength, modulus elasticity and flexural strength. They mix 0%, 35%, 50% and 65% of recycled aggregate into the mixture and found that as the percentage of recycled aggregate are added increases, the specific gravity, characteristic strength, compressive strength, modulus elasticity and flexural strength decreases. We couldn't indicate that the recycled aggregate is not good for using just by comparing these data with the natural aggregate properties. If we use 65% of recycled aggregate or above, each physical properties will drop greatly. However, if we limit the portion of recycled aggregate adds to concrete, it won't affect each property much. Based on the research and experiment test, "the maximum replacement of recycled coarse aggregate that can be used in concrete is 35%".[10] Some experiment showed that recycled aggregate don't have good durability like the natural coarse aggregate but we can improve its durability by mixing with special materials such as flying ash to produce high strength and durable concrete.[11]


There are a variety of benefits in recycling concrete rather than dumping it or burying it in a landfill.

  • Keeping concrete debris out of landfills saves landfill space.[12]
  • Using recycled concrete can conserve natural resources by reducing the need for gravel mining, water, coal, oil and gas.[13]
  • Using recycled concrete as the base material for roadways reduces the pollution involved in trucking material.[12]
  • Recycling concrete can create more employment opportunities.[13]
  • Recycling concrete drag down the cost for buying raw materials and transporting the waste to landfill sites.[13]
  • Recycling one ton of cement could save 1,360 gallons water, 900 kg of CO2

Lead paint contamination[edit]

There have been concerns about the recycling of painted concrete due to possible lead content. The Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and others have conducted studies to see if lead-based paint in crushed concrete actually poses a hazard. It was concluded that concrete with lead-based paint would be able to be used as clean fill without impervious cover but with some type of soil cover.[14]


  1. ^ "Home". Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-04-05. 
  2. ^ "How Concrete is Recycled", Retrieved 2010-04-05.
  3. ^ "Concrete Recycling". Associated Construction Publications. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  4. ^ a b "Markets for Recycled Concrete Aggregate", Retrieved 2010-04-05.
  5. ^ Frederick G. Wright, Jr, "FHWA Recycled Materials Policy", Federal Highway Administration, November 20, 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-05.
  6. ^ Rathmann, Chuck (28 Dec 2000). "A Recipe for Rubblization". Roads & Bridges. Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  7. ^ "Design of Riprap Revetment" (PDF). Federal Highway Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. p. 19. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Riprap Revetments". Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  9. ^ Yehia, Sherif; Helal, Kareem; Abusharkh, Anaam; Zaher, Amani; Istaitiyeh, Hiba (2015-06-01). "Strength and Durability Evaluation of Recycled Aggregate Concrete". International Journal of Concrete Structures and Materials. 9 (2): 219–239. doi:10.1007/s40069-015-0100-0. ISSN 1976-0485. 
  10. ^ a b salehlamein, Fathei Ramadan; .Solikin, Mochamad; Ir.sriSunarjono (1970-01-01). "Effect of Recycled Coarse Aggregate on Concrete Properties". International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology. 4 (1). ISSN 2319-8753. 
  11. ^ Rao, Akash; Jha, Kumar N.; Misra, Sudhir (2007-03-01). "Use of aggregates from recycled construction and demolition waste in concrete". Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 50 (1): 71–81. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2006.05.010. 
  12. ^ a b "Value Engineering Benefits", Retrieved 2010-04-05.
  13. ^ a b c "What are Benefits of Recycling? - Conserve Energy Future". Conserve Energy Future. 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  14. ^ "Recycling Revisited". Associated Construction Publications. 

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