[This post originally appeared here in March 2015. It has been expanded upon, revised, and updated to reflect more recent information.]
Concrete disposal is difficult and even dangerous because it is heavy and unwieldy. Even transporting concrete debris can be a challenge.
And, while it is not normally classified as a hazardous material, the rules defining those types of materials can be confusing.
How to Properly Dispose of Waste Concrete Debris
According to one article,
The USEPA defines hazardous wastes in several ways, one of them being whether or not it is what is called a "characteristic" hazardous waste. Does the waste meet certain stated characteristics? If it does, then it is a hazardous waste.
One characteristic that is very applicable is the corrosivity mentioned above, the high pH, which you might find from excess unhardened concrete, concrete fine materials, process water, etc. According to the USEPA, if that material has a pH greater than 12.5, it is by nature a corrosive material, and by default, a hazardous waste.
However, if "waste" concrete is actually slated for reuse or recycling, then that changes the game a bit. Concrete rubble and debris that is reused is no longer a waste product.
The same article noted that,
The USEPA defines a waste as “discarded material that is not otherwise excluded from definition.” So, it must be a discarded material. It seems like “no further use” and “discarded” are pretty important concepts in whether or not something is a waste.
So on that basis alone, is concrete a waste? NO. Concrete is a building material, and if used for its originally intended purpose, it is not a waste material at all. Since it is not a waste first and foremost, it cannot be a hazardous waste by definition.
So, for practical purposes, if you have a few truck loads of concrete rubble and broken-up debris, how you intend to dispose of it all largely determines whether it must be treated as "hazardous" waste or recovered material.
Which might beg the question, "What else can you do with it besides taking it to a landfill?"
Concrete Disposal: Dump It or Recycle It?
While the proper handling and disposal of concrete rubble needs to be taken into consideration, pursuing other options to using your local landfill can be beneficial.
According to statistics put out by Integrated Waste Management Board, Construction and Demolition (C&D) materials made up about 29 percent of California's disposed waste stream, or approximately 11.6 million tons.
Of that waste, asphalt and concrete represent over 977,000 tons of disposal, or around 2.4 percent of the disposed waste in California.
And a paper from Cement.org noted that the Construction Materials Recycling Association estimates that about 140 million tons of concrete are recycled each year in the U.S. alone.
Most concrete debris that is not simply disposed of in landfills is repurposed in a number of ways. In fact, concrete recycling is an increasingly common method of utilizing the rubble. At one time, concrete was commonly trucked to landfills for disposal, but the benefits of recycling has made it a more attractive option in light of more stringent environmental laws, and for keeping construction costs down.
Typically, recycled concrete aggregate, or RCA as it is known in the construction industry, is used as base and sub-base material, granular fill, or as aggregate for new concrete pavement.
Three Reasons for Recycling Concrete Debris
While it’s a good practice to keep any material out of the landfill, if possible, the durability and potential for reuse makes concrete debris a great candidate for recycling. However, getting it off-site and hauled away is still a potentially costly and time-consuming proposition if you choose to do it yourself.
Three reasons to opt for recycling your waste concrete material:
- Reduced costs of removing and hauling
- Elimination of high landfill fees
- Contributes to the production of lower-cost recycled aggregate products
And aside from the economics of choosing a firm to take your concrete debris to a recycling plant, there are a variety of benefits in recycling concrete rather than dumping it or burying it in a landfill, such as:
- Keeping concrete debris out of landfills saves landfill space
- Using recycled material as gravel reduces the need for gravel mining
- Using recycled concrete as the base material for roadways reduces the pollution involved in trucking material
And the EPA echoes these benefits along with a few others that are equally significant,
- Create employment and economic activities in recycling industries and provide increased business opportunities within the local community, especially when deconstruction and selective demolition methods are used.
- EPA's 2016 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report showed that in 2012 the recycling of C&D materials created 175,000 jobs.
- Reduce overall building project expenses through avoided purchase/disposal costs, and the donation of recovered materials to qualified 501(c)(3) charities, which provides a tax benefit. Onsite reuse also reduces transportation costs.
- Lead to fewer disposal facilities, potentially reducing the associated environmental issues.
Offset the environmental impact associated with the extraction and consumption of virgin resources and production of new materials.
In addition, as The Balance points out, recycling concrete helps reduce construction waste and extend the life of landfills as well as saving builders disposal or tipping fees. It also reduces transportation costs because concrete can often be recycled in areas near the demolition or construction site.
Recycling Concrete Disposal Material
One of the advantages of making use of a professional disposal firm is knowing that your waste material will find new life as recycled aggregate while reducing the impact on existing landfills.
Recycled aggregate can be used:
- In paved roads as aggregate base, aggregate sub-base, and shoulders
- In gravel roads as surfacing
- As base for building foundations
- As fill for utility trenches
Portland cement concrete and asphalt concrete consist primarily of aggregate and the cement and asphalt serve as binders. In addition, concrete debris will often contain steel reinforcement bars, or "rebar" which adds to the mix.
The concrete debris usually shows up at the processor in chunks so heavy crushing equipment is used to break up the chunks into aggregate.
A crushing plant receives the material and then breaks it into more manageable pieces. These go into some type of impact crusher to reduce its size even further and then through a vibrating screen to sort the crushed material to specific sizes. Finally, a conveyor belt moves the aggregate past a rotating magnet to remove metal contamination including rebar.
The end result is referred to as recycled aggregate. After processing, the rocks retain bits of cement or asphalt and are used primarily as aggregate base and sub-base in road projects.
Junk King: Helping You Achieve Green Concrete Disposal
Junk King provides an efficient, safe and eco-friendly construction waste disposal service so you don’t need to worry about the pick up or disposal of the debris after your project is complete.
Whether you need our services several times during a construction project or just once after it is complete, our hauling professionals will ensure that the construction debris is out of your way so that you can get on with the job.
How can you get us on your site for construction debris disposal?
You make an appointment simply by booking online above or by calling us at 1-888-888-JUNK.
Our professional and insured hauling team will call 15 to 30 minutes before we arrive on your site and we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your construction debris takes up in our truck.
We load the construction waste into our junk removal trucks and haul it away for you and all without any added charges or hidden fees.
Our team specializes in construction debris removal and we can be at your facility on the same day, so call us today! Our crew is fully insured and well-trained, so you can trust them to get rid of all your unwanted items in a professional and courteous fashion.
And one of the best things about hiring Junk King is that we recycle as much of all the material we pick up as possible. This is proof of our commitment to being an eco-friendly removal service.
So, ready for some green concrete disposal service? It's as simple as one phone call!
If you have questions about what we do or how we operate, give us a call at1-888-888-JUNK.