Should We Be Recycling Concrete?

Should We Be Recycling Concrete?

Recently we've been looking into sustainable building materials, like skyscrapers made of wood. We've also been examining the slowly crumbling infrastructure, largely made of concrete. Perhaps it's time to combine the two ideas -- and look at recycling concrete. A team of scientists at Notre Dame are trying to figure out whether something can be done with old concrete structures besides tearing them down and dumping them somewhere. This is a problem that will only become more pressing. Concrete freeways and bridges see a lot of wear and tear. It's only a matter of time before they have to be replaced -- at which point we'll need more concrete. It seems like a waste to toss concrete away, only to send out vehicles to quarry, crush and deliver yet more concrete.

We already do recycle some concrete. Due to safety concerns, concrete that was once a bridge or a building has to be turned into something which doesn't bear as much weight, like a footpath. The team at Notre Dame, in partnership with University of Texas and New Mexico State University, are looking at different sample of concrete and assessing the quality of the material, and whether use and the elements will deform it over time.

If used concrete can stand up to both humans and the environment, we may see a day when we can re-use concrete over and over -- and it becomes a sustainable material. Cities can be literally broken down and reformed again and again.

[Why Not Recycled Concrete?]

Image: MO Stevens

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    Interesting article on recycling:

    transportation and breaking up concrete can't be that efficient .. using it for road base and landfill as we do now is probably the most viable thing for it.

    Concrete recyling already happens to a certain extent. Crush waste concrete, use magnets to extract the re-bar and sell that on as scrap metal to pay for concrete crushing. Crushed concrete slightly reactivates the cementacious nature of the concrete. It then becomes a prized road making material for the thick foundation under bitumen or concrete roadways.

    Erm, I'm pretty sure that the overpasses in the picture are mostly made of steel...

    Came here to say this as well, but the new part is that they want to be able to use it as the aggregate or cement for new concrete. That's something that I don't think they're doing at the moment and might be of more value than just turning it all in to roadbase.

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