Recycling concrete is a fairly straightforward part of demolition asset recovery. First, the concrete must be removed from the building in huge chunks, using high reach excavators with dedicated attachments, such as shears. Next, non-concrete components such as rebar must be removed. Once materials are sorted, demolition salvage firms may use huge concrete crushing machines to break chunks into usable fill on site. Other demolition companies truck concrete to specialized recycling plants.
According to federal highway studies, 82% of American states recycle concrete as an aggregate. States use recycled concrete for base aggregate (72% of states), Portland cement (22%), and even hot-mix aggregate (16%). This research found that recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) is just as strong as regular aggregate.
Here are a few more specific industrial applications for recycled concrete:
–Creating embankments and noise barriers, to prevent erosion and noise pollution.
—Producing new concrete, for sidewalks, highway shoulders and barriers, bridge foundations, etc.
—Pavement base, when mixed with soil.
—Structural concrete in new buildings.
Smaller deconstruction projects, done by hand to preserve as much recyclable material as possible, can also produce mounds of concrete chunks. Residential applications of recycled concrete include:
—Steppingstones for garden paths. Chunks of concrete from the same demolition project can be used to create a charming pathway.
—Retaining walls. Short retaining walls can be constructed by alternating layers of recycled concrete and soil. (Taller retaining walls require professional landscaping expertise.)
—Raised garden beds. Recycled concrete chunks can be stacked with the smooth edges facing out to create raised beds.
—Drainage. When broken down into small enough chunks, recycled concrete makes excellent filler for French drains, dry wells, and other drainage features.
As landfill fees increase, demolition clients are looking for ways to cut costs. Concrete is an expensive material to dispose of. First, it must be transported to a processing facility, which tends to cost about .25 cents per mile, per ton of concrete. Then, disposal fees can run as high as $100 per ton. Recycling concrete on site is a great way to save costs during demolition.
[photo by: Reuse Warehouse on Flickr via CC License]