We all know the basics of recycling. Plastics, paper, glass, and organic matter should be separated and put in their appropriate containers. But times have changed, and the number of recyclable materials is only increasing each year. In fact, many household items like toothbrushes, fluorescent light bulbs, and holiday lights are just a few examples of things you can now recycle. Every industry is testing the limits of recycling, and in the world of construction, the latest innovation making waves is recycled concrete.
Yep, you read that correctly. But can concrete be recycled? Really? It’s true – the second most widely used substance on Earth & traditionally a heavy CO2 emitter is going green, and this is how!
Table of Contents
Can concrete be recycled?
In the construction industry today there’s a lot of talk about CDEW, which stands for Construction, Demolition, and Excavation Waste if you didn’t already know. And if you’re not talking about it, you should be. In Europe, CDEW makes up more than a third of all waste generated and, in the UK, it is estimated that around 120 million tonnes of CDEW waste is generated every year. That’s why the construction industry’s most used material is getting a new life through recycling.
Recycled concrete refers to the reuse of concrete from demolished structures in new construction or refurbishment projects.
How concrete is recycled
Once concrete reaches its end-of-life stage, it can be recycled through a process that involves breaking it up, removing unwanted materials such as dirt and steel, and then crushing the remaining mixture into the preferred specs.
This process can be carried out in a quarry or on-site, and the resulting product is called recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) that can be used as a base to make new concrete products.
The benefits of recycling concrete
There are many benefits related to sustainability and quality that result from concrete recycling:
- Less dependency on finite natural resources: By recycling used concrete, less extractions from the earth are required and the environmental effect of extraction and transportation of new resources is also reduced or removed altogether.
- Decarbonization of the construction industry: Less emissions are released with concrete made with RCA than with virgin resources.
- Less landfill waste: It can’t go without saying that concrete recycling also eliminates or substantially reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. It can also alleviate the high costs related to landfill levies and save your business money.
- Lighter concrete: Recycled concrete can be lighter than newly produced concrete, which translates to more volume per ton per order.
- Reduced costs: Concrete recycled can be cheaper to produce since less raw materials and transportation costs are required.
What about cement and aggregates?
RCA isn’t just made up of cement; it also includes commonly used aggregates such as sand, gravel, and crushed stones. And since the recipe for concrete is cement + aggregates + water, RCA is a sustainable way to commit to the circular economy during the production of concrete. However, just like the aggregates in used concrete, the waste cement paste from demolished concrete can also be used to produce recycled cement. Cement paste can be blended with recycled aggregates in the production of new, but recycled concrete.
Many companies, like our parent company Cemex, are pushing for the adoption of a circular economy in construction. For example, Regenera, a business specialized in providing circularity solutions to extend the life cycle of products and materials by reusing them into value-added products, turns CDEW waste and waste byproducts from industrial processes into alternative raw materials. This solution not only helps reduce waste in the first place, but it also boasts benefits such as the preservation of natural resources and a reduced CO2 footprint.
Cemex Ventures and recycled concrete
Cemex Ventures is looking for solutions that make construction greener. In fact, one of the startups we’re spotlighting is Arqlite, a startup in our investment portfolio that’s making great strides in creating a more sustainable concrete.
Arqlite is a recycling technology company developing new high-efficiency building materials for heavy industries, made 100% from plastic waste. Their flagship product is artificial gravel produced 100% from recycled plastics that’s 10x better at insulating and 3x lighter than mineral gravel to produce low-carbon concrete. Arqlite’s recycling system can process otherwise non-recyclable plastics, providing an eco-friendly solution at a competitive price compared to traditional landfill fees.
In addition to concrete recycling solutions, we’re looking for startups with circular business models related to CDE waste & recycling, alternative fuels & new energy sources, sustainable materials, sustainable products libraries & LCA, water conservation, and environmental damage mitigation.
Apply to the Construction Startup Competition under the Green Construction category and start reaping the benefits today!