Researchers have successfully reinforced concrete with plastic waste, paving way for the first large-scale sustainable construction practice.
Researchers from James Cook University (JCU) in Australia have succeeded in creating concrete that’s correctly reinforced by plastic waste rather than steel. The revolutionary practice can surely have a huge impact on the ecology by ensuring plastic waste is reused rather than fill dumps and leech harmful chemicals into the ground and atmosphere. Speaking about the technique, Rabin Tuladhar, the lead researcher from JCU, said as follows.
“Using recycled plastic, we were able to get more than a 90 percent saving on CO2 emissions and fossil fuel usage compared to using the traditional steel mesh reinforcing. The recycled plastic also has obvious environmental advantages over using virgin plastic fibers.”
Plastic is referred to as virgin when it is the first-ever use of the long-chained compound. However, majority of the plastics can be easily melted and reused instead of being discarded after the first use. The concrete was reinforced using recycled polypropylene plastic instead of regular steel cables.
Though the plastic reinforced concrete won’t be allowed in construction in the near future, the plastic-reinforced concrete can be safely used to build footpaths and precast elements such as drainage pits and concrete sleepers. Tuladhar is now working closely with local cement and concrete producers to devise more ways on how to apply the findings and the eco-friendly concreter more broadly.
Concrete is the second most-used material on Earth. In fact, it is the most used artificial material and second only to water when all the materials are taken into consideration. Production of cement, one of concrete’s key ingredients, is alone responsible for 5 percent of the world’s annual CO2 production.
While the percentage might not sound much, plastic on the other hand, which is derived from crude oil, is responsible for generation of millions of tons of waste each year that is not only found on land, but in the ocean as well. Unfathomable amount of CO2 emissions can be directly or indirectly attributed to the improper usage of plastic.
Reinforcing concrete with plastic can ensure the end result is not only strong and durable, but sustainable and eco-friendly as well. In addition to the same, Tuladhar is also working on making concrete more sustainable in other ways, such as replacing natural sand with 100 percent crusher dust – a byproduct of stone quarries – and replacing cement with up to 30 percent mining waste.