Globally, more than 4.4 billion tons of concrete are produced annually. We use concrete in commercial and residential building projects, and it continues to provide a strong foundation for our city and state’s rapid growth.
What happens when old concrete is demolished, though? Many tons of concrete are removed and broken down during the demolition process; however, that doesn’t have to be the end of their story.
Builders, business owners and homeowners can all find ways to repurpose their old concrete and prevent it from heading into the landfill. We’ve put together a few options for giving new life to old concrete.
1. Recycle and use for pea gravel.
Pea gravel is an attractive and foot-friendly (for both animals and people!) surface. It can be made with new gravel, but it can also be made using concrete that’s been grounded in a concrete grinder.
Businesses and hotels can use it for sidewalks and landscaping, and many homeowners also choose it for driveways and other large projects.
2. Use a fresh layer of concrete to resurface outside spaces.
If you have concrete that’s cracked or unattractive but that is still structurally sound, you don’t necessarily have to uproot it and start over. Instead, consider adding a fresh layer of concrete and resurfacing it.
This approach works best for concrete that is decorative and/or functional, not for concrete projects that will be weight-bearing. Examples include sidewalks, patios, porches and pool decks.
3. Reclaim concrete for walkways.
Large pieces of existing concrete can be pieced together and re-used to create a walkway with some personality. In fact, recycled concrete used in projects like this even has a name – called “urbanite!”
If it’s artistically broken up and laid properly, it can have a similar look to a beautiful flagstone path. And because you’re either using it from your own site or (sometimes) getting it for free if you’re willing to pick it up and haul it away, urbanite walkways can be both sustainable and affordable.
4. Use recycled concrete as backfill.
When concrete is crushed down to 3/4-inch pieces, it can be used for backfill or for a base beneath walls in your building project. This backfill helps provide a strong structure for the project, improves drainage and more.
When it’s completed with recycled concrete, it also reduces the impact on the environment that would occur if you chose to use newly mined materials or new concrete gravel instead.
5. Reuse as aggregate for new concrete.
Existing concrete can be recycled to use when creating new concrete.
For example, the goal for future production of products like Pole-Base is to collect and use recycled concrete to build the bases, thus creating a more sustainable product and reducing the total amount of concrete being sent to the landfill.
Why to Recycle Concrete in Your Building Projects
The biggest benefit from concrete recycling is the reduction of waste going into landfills. According to the EPA, more than 50 percent of the waste that goes into landfills annually is from construction and demolition projects.
If we can find sustainable ways to keep even a fraction of that waste from landfills, it’s a win for our communities and the environment.
In addition, finding ways to reuse and repurpose old concrete also:
- Preserves natural resources by reducing mining for new raw materials
- Reduces the cost of concrete debris removal and landfill fees
Recycled concrete has been evaluated against new materials by the Federal Highway Administration and has been rated as a sound economic, environmental and engineering decision. If you’re pre-planning for a project and trying to determine where recycled concrete could fit into your processes, connect with someone from our team of experts. They’ve worked to increase diversion and sustainability on countless projects across South and Central Texas.
If you don’t have a clear plan for how to use your old concrete for a new project, you still have the opportunity to recycle your concrete.
When you recycle concrete, it can be used for all these projects and more – and it is successfully diverted from the landfill and into someone else’s project plan.
As one final perk, recycling concrete can be a more economical solution all around, as it reduces your need to buy new materials and has the potential to reduce your waste processing line-item. That’s always good news, whether you’re the builder, the project manager or the end-user!