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Concrete Recycling: A Concrete Plan to Save $$$

Orange ark 503 crusher recycling concrete into crushed material

What if, instead of dumping your waste concrete, you could turn it into a material that could be used on your job sites and save you money? With the growing cost of aggregates and fuel in the construction industry, the potential profit margins for businesses like yours are getting smaller and smaller. So how can you reduce the cost of materials and improve your margin?

In this post we will provide our tips on how to save money by recycling concrete.

Why recycle concrete and demolition waste?

Construction projects often involve the demolition of sidewalks, driveways, or other structures made of concrete.

Making old concrete reusable can be a good way to reduce costs and help the environment by cutting down the amount of waste going to landfill. Concrete is an amazing resource as it can be reused and repurposed to replace other construction aggregates, such as gravel, sand and fill material - that would otherwise have to be extracted from natural resources, processed and transported for use in construction.

By recycling your leftover aggregates instead of dumping them, you can save a huge amount of money on buying material, renting dump trucks, paying drivers, and dumping fees. You could even sell the material if you have no use for it — adding more dollars to your bottom line.

How to recycle concrete?

Crushing concrete

So what is a crusher? Well, a crusher's job is to break concrete into smaller pieces so that it is reusable as gravel, fill for construction, paving materials, or other commercial uses.

A primary crusher, such as a jaw crusher, is used to break bigger and harder pieces of concrete into smaller, more manageable chunks. After this, a secondary crusher, like an impact crusher, may also be used to further grind the smaller chunks of aggregate into finer particles. Impact crushers produce more consistently shaped particles than a jaw crusher and creates more dust in the process which can be used as sand.

Depending on your construction project, you can use both crushers or just one. Generally speaking, most people will start with a jaw crusher as it is a lower cost machine that is simpler to maintain. When your operation gets larger and the shape and size of your material becomes more specific, an impact crusher becomes a better option.

The most effective method of recycling concrete is to crush on site with a portable recycling plant. This way, you can reduce transportation costs and environmental impact of trucking material to and from quarries and dump sites.

Removing metal from crushed concrete

A lot of concrete structures contain rebar (reinforcement rod) or metal wire to strengthen the structure. When crushing concrete, you need to be careful about removing rebar in order to obtain pure aggregates. Failure to do so will compromise the quality of the output, lowering  resale value of the materials. You can use a metal extraction system which removes the metal off the main crusher run conveyor or add magnetic drums to your conveyors on your crusher/screener so that workers do not have to remove the metal manually.

Screening crushed concrete

The most common way to screen crushed concrete is to use a vibrating “screen box”. This machine is equipped with screens of different sizes through which the material can be passed, filtered and separated based on aggregate particle size. Screeners come in a wide range of sizes so there will always be one to suit your application and need.

a machinery partner branded 3 way scalping screener in orange and gray being used on site to screen lots of concrete into different sized piles
This is a screener used for sorting crushed concrete into different sizes

Using a conveyor

By crushing concrete, you could be saving up to $30 per ton but you can only crush until your stockpile grows to the size of your equipment’s conveyor output. Once this limit has been reached, you’ll have to move your machines before you can start to crush again. If you run a larger crusher, the time it takes to move your equipment could have be spent on crushing another 30 or 50 tons of concrete. That’s up to $1,500 dollars lost just to move your machines!

Using a conveyor at the end of your lines allows you to create much larger stockpiles and move your equipment far less. For example, a crusher with a 10 ft output conveyor can stockpile roughly 20 tons. A 65 ft conveyor with a 26 ft stockpile height can accommodate almost 600 tons. If you crush 20 tons per hour with the crusher alone you would need to move it once an hour but with the addition of a conveyor you only need to move it every 30 hours. This means you can get 29 more hours of crushing - saving time and money!

orange barford R6536TR radial conveyor being used on site to move and transport crushed concrete into a stockpile
Conveyors move large amounts for crushed concrete from the crusher into a stockpile

How you can use recycled concrete?

Using Recycled Concrete Aggregate

On average, about 60% or more of crushed concrete can be recycled and used for structures such as:

  • Roads, paths and walkways: to create a porous traffic surface that rainwater can filter through. Reducing the amount of runoff water managed by sewer systems, with better cost-effectiveness than other materials.
  • Garden beds: to provide good drainage and ensure walls and soil do not collapse.
  • Pavements: to lay down the foundations on compacted ground and recycled concrete aggregate is perfect for that. It helps site stabilization, bottom layer base, and backfill.

Sand or fine stockpiles

Crushed concrete makes a durable paver base because it allows water drainage. Concrete sand, also known as bedding sand, is coarse and doesn’t trap excess moisture beneath the paving surface. This helps paving stones maintain their structural integrity over time even with heavy rain.

medium sized stockpile of crushed concrete on a job site
Crushed concrete stockpile

Benefits of recycled concrete

The main benefits are making and saving money, reducing construction waste and lowering transportation costs as the concrete can often be recycled in areas near the demolition or construction site.

Today's consumers are far more environmentally conscious, and want their contractors to recycle and reduce waste. Onsite concrete recycling is a great marketing opportunity for contractors and it can help you grow your business while saving money and helping the planet!

How much does it cost to recycle concrete?

There are lots of costs to recycle concrete but these should be weighed up against the money you can save by crushing your own concrete and the profit you can make from selling it.

To start, there is the cost of the crushing machine itself, either bought or rented, then there is the cost of:

  • fuel used to power the crusher,
  • storing or leasing a site or warehouse to house both the machine when in use and not in use
  • paying an operator for the machinery
  • transportation costs associated with bringing the concrete to be recycled from its original location to be processed at the site with the crusher
  • transportation of the crushed concrete to a supplier or wholesaler

To save money, companies may want to invest in buying smaller crusher that can easily be transported from job site to job site.

On average, the cost of producing one ton of recycled concrete is estimated at anywhere from $4 to $10, depending on the type of crusher being used for that task. If you would like to know more about the benefits of having your own recycling plant, check out this article: ROI of recycling concrete.

Don't forget though, by crushing your own concrete you are saving $$$ on landfill tipping fees, transportation costs & you won't have to rely or pay a supplier for crushed concrete!

Concrete recycling vs concrete disposal

There are two ways to deal with old concrete: recycle it or dispose of it. Just looking at the cost to recycle concrete it is much lower than the cost to dispose of it. Recycling concrete costs around $4 -$10 per ton. Disposing of concrete can cost as much as $22-45 per ton! Your own peronal scenario will be different as there will be different fees and costs depending on the machines you have and the state that you live in. For more information on how much money you could save - contact a Machinery Partner expert today!

Recycling concrete is also a better choice for the environment and reduces the strain on landfills.

Talk to a Machinery Partner expert

If you're not convinced, we'll tell you again: recycling concrete is a great way to save money! Not only that, but you'll meet your customers' needs, save a lot of time and grow your business. To do so, you need to choose the right equipment to make sure you get the end product you need. A bit lost for this part? Need some advice to make the right choice? Machinery Partner can help you!

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