There is a looming global concrete crisis and it's due to a vanishing supply of sand. That's right, sand. But one solution is concrete recycling.
The world's supply of sand for use in concrete is disappearing at an alarming rate and alternatives such as recycling concrete are needed.
Dude! Where's Our Sand? Why Concrete Recycling Matters.
It's a crisis that almost no one knows about - unless they're watching their beaches disappear.
Almost 90 percent of the world's beaches have shrunk by an average of 40 meters in less than 15 years. A booming black market of construction-grade sand is threatening the economic and ecological status of several nations. And while alternatives for concrete are beginning to emerge, the demand for concrete is sky-rocketing.
How much concrete?
Globally, over 10 billion tons of concrete are produced each year. And in the US for example, the annual production is over 500 million tons - almost two tons for each man, woman and child. However, nations such as China have been and continue to feed a rapidly growing need for more concrete.
According to a 2014 article in Forbes magazine,
China produces and consumes about 60 percent of the world's cement -- the Three Gorges Dam alone required 16 million tonnes of it. To put China's massive 21st century construction splurge and concrete consumption into perspective, Bill Gates made a mind-blowing comparison.
According to his blog, between 2011 and 2013, China consumed 6.6 gigatons of concrete - that's more than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century.
And in 2019, one report noted that the world produces 4.4 billion tons of concrete annually, but that number is expected to rise to over 5.5 billion tons by 2050 as poorer countries rapidly urbanize.
The problem is the limited and increasingly shrinking supply of suitable sand for concrete.
Desert sand cannot be used for concrete as the wind erosion produces smooth grains that do not bind and lock together in a concrete mix. Instead, the sand that is needed is the more angular type found in the beds, banks, and floodplains of rivers, in lakes, and on the ocean beaches. And, unfortunately, the demand for this type of sand is so intense that riverbeds and beaches are quite literally being stripped bare all over the world.
In addition, farmlands and forests are being ravaged to get at the highly valuable material.
Consequently, best practices such as concrete recycling are desperately needed to curb the full-on assault on our environment.
Concrete Recycling and the World-Wide Concrete Crisis
The demand for concrete-grade sand is intensifying exponentially while the supply is shrinking rapidly. This has led to a rapid increase in the prices being demanded for this type of sand and, with it, a wide assortment of criminal activities and associated social and ecological woes.
Here is an infographic that provides some essential snapshots into this very present crisis.
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One of the most significant things that contractors and homeowners can do to help solve the issues with sand and concrete is to recycle as much of their concrete debris as possible.
It's estimated that about 140 million tons of concrete are recycled each year in the US and this recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) is typically used as granular fill, base and sub-base material, or as aggregate in new concrete pavement.
Scientists around the world are working on ways to increase the efficacy of concrete recycling processes. These efforts are highlighted in one article that noted,
Concrete is made from granular materials such as sand and crushed stone—known as aggregates—bound together by a cement paste. Cement has a high carbon footprint due to the chemistry of its production and the high processing temperatures, while the aggregates have a high 'resources footprint' because they come from finite natural sources.
A team led by Italian engineers has refined the processing of demolition waste on site and tested ways of using the resulting streams of powders and aggregates in fresh concrete.
"We have shown that it's possible to achieve astonishing percentages of construction and demolition waste embedded in our precast concrete elements," said Dr. Anna Paraboschi, a civil engineer at RINA, an industrial consulting firm, and coordinator of the project, VEEP.
Improved processes and advancing technologies have proved that concrete using what is often referred to as "manufactured sand" can be as strong as material using natural sand. A report from the National Institutes of Health concluded,
The presence of clays in manufactured sands can be a limiting factor in their use in concrete applications where high consistency and relatively low w/c (water/cement) ratios are specified. Nevertheless adequate concrete incorporating manufactured sand as sole fine aggregate can be made. Indeed, at the same w/c ratio, the compressive and flexural strengths of manufactured sand concretes were higher than those of their natural sand counterparts.
Concrete Debris and Landfills: A Case for Concrete Recycling
Concrete recycling is a solid industry in the US and the need is growing. According to the website for The Portland Cement Association (PCA),
Concrete recycling gains importance because it protects natural resources and eliminates the need for disposal by using the readily available concrete as an aggregate source for new concrete or other applications.
Recycling of concrete is a relatively simple process. It involves breaking, removing, and crushing existing concrete into a material with a specified size and quality. The quality of concrete with RCA is very dependent on the quality of the recycled material used. Reinforcing steel and other embedded items, if any, must be removed, and care must be taken to prevent contamination by other materials that can be troublesome, such as asphalt, soil and clay balls, chlorides, glass, gypsum board, sealants, paper, plaster, wood, and roofing materials.
In 2018 the building, renovating, and deconstruction of structures generated almost 600 million tons of construction and demolition waste in the United States alone. And over 405 million tons of that material was concrete waste and debris. However, over 100 million tons was still sent to landfills across the country.
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So, how can you get us to your site for construction waste removal?
Make an appointment simply by booking online above or call us at 1-888-888-JUNK (5865). Our professional and insured hauling team will come to your site. and we'll call 15 minutes before we arrive. Once we show up we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your waste material and debris takes up in our truck.
We load your construction waste - including waste concrete -into our junk removal trucks and haul it away. And all without any hidden fees!