Closing the loop: What type of concrete re-use is the most sustainable option?

Commissioned by The Concrete Initiative, this study by the European Cement Research Academy (ECRA) entitled “Closing the loop: What type of concrete re-use is the most sustainable option?” looks at the different options for recycling concrete. 

The term "recycling" generally describes the re-use or the recovery of products or parts of products in the form of loops.  Loops can be defined either within the manufacturing process or at the end of the product's life.   This study uses LCA (life-cycle analysis) to evaluate the impact of producing new concrete with either primary raw materials or recycled concrete aggregates, or using the waste concrete in road construction. A comparison is made to find the most sustainable option.

Based on the life-cycle analysis, it is often preferable to use recycled concrete in road construction, unless there is little or no demand close by. For fresh concrete, the fact that recycled concrete aggregates require additional processing means that using primary raw materials can in many instances be the more sustainable choice. Given the important influence that transport distances have on the results, it is appropriate to take a case-by-case approach. In this respect, politically-driven recycled content targets for concrete make little sense.

More information: Study

Tags: resource efficiency, sustainable construction, re-use, recycling, c&d waste

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