Comparative LCA of recycled and conventional concrete for structural applications

Christof Knoeri, Esther Sanyé-Mengual, Hans Joerg Althaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Construction and demolition (C&D) waste recycling has been considered to be a valuable option not only for minimising C&D waste streams to landfills but also for mitigating primary mineral resource depletion. However, the potentially higher cement demand due to the larger surface of the coarse recycled aggregates challenges the environmental benefits of recycling concrete. Furthermore, it is unclear how the environmental impacts depend on concrete mixture, cement type, aggregates composition and transport distances. Methods: We therefore analysed the life cycle impacts of 12 recycled concrete (RC) mixtures with two different cement types and compared it with corresponding conventional concretes (CC) for three structural applications. The RC mixtures were selected according to laws, standards and construction practice in Switzerland. We compared the environmental impacts of ready-for-use concrete on the construction site, assuming equal lifetimes for recycled and conventional concrete in a full life cycle assessment. System expansion and substitution are considered to achieve the same functionality for all systems. Results and discussion: The results show clear (∼30 %) environmental benefits for all RC options at endpoint level (ecoindicator 99 and ecological scarcity). The difference is mainly due to the avoided burdens associated to reinforcing steel recycling and avoided disposal of C&D waste. Regarding global warming potential (GWP), the results are more balanced and primarily depend on the additional amount of cement needed for RC. Above 22 to 40 kg additional cement per cubic metre of concrete, RC exhibits a GWP comparable to CC. Additional transport distances above 15 km for the RC options do result in environmental impacts higher than those for CC. Conclusions: In summary, the current market mixtures of recycled concrete in Switzerland show significant environmental benefits compared to conventional concrete and cause similar GWP, if additional cement and transport for RC are limited. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-918
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013

Keywords

  • Cement
  • Construction and demolition waste
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Recycled concrete
  • Transport

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