By recycling concrete, landfill space is conserved, gravel mining minimised and the carbon footprint of manufacturing new concrete significantly reduced.
Concrete is the most widely used construction material in urban development. As concrete-based infrastructure is replaced with new structures, an enormous amount of building waste is produced. By recycling concrete, the need for gravel mining, and the carbon footprint of manufacturing new concrete is reduced by 65 percent1. Economic savings are also made through avoidance of landfill fees, which are becoming increasingly prevalent and costly.
Over 14 million tonnes of concrete was disposed of (landfill and recycling) in Australia in 20052. If all of this were commercially recycled it would be the equivalent "everyday" savings of over 2.7 million households' energy requirements for a month.
"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of concrete3 recycled:
|97 km driven4|
|0.02 tonnes CO2e|
|0.2 houses' energy for a month5|
|0.35 GJ LHV (97kWh)|
|7 bath tubs6|
|1.28 kL water|
|19 wheelie bins7|
For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.
A number of industrial recyclers accept concrete tipping or provide on-site bins for concrete waste collection.
The process of recycling concrete requires an initial breakdown of material using a primary jaw crusher, with further reduction carried out by cone crushers. The material is then screened and where required blended to produce a range of recycled products. These recycled materials are used in pavement construction, concrete production and various civil construction works.
1.The Australian Journal of Mining – online article Nov-Dec 2009 http://www.theajmonline.com.au/mining_news/news/2009/november-december/concrete-recycling-plant-cuts-carbon-impact
2. Hyder Consulting (2009) Waste and Recycling in Australia: Amended report. Hyder Consulting, Melbourne, p. 77
3. Data for concrete (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
4. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
5. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
6. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
7. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)