According to a paper by Columbia University, over 10 billion tons of concrete are produced worldwide each year. In the US alone, over 500 million tons of concrete are produced annually. It goes without saying that concrete is a widely used component of our everyday lives.
From construction materials to sidewalks and patios, concrete makes up an essential part of the world’s infrastructure.
If you’re curious about concrete, what it is and how to get rid of concrete for your next project, read on!
What is concrete?
Put simply, concrete is a man-made stone-like material that is created by combining a binding material like cement or stone with an aggregate material like sand or gravel.
These two ingredients are combined with a specified proportion of water to create concrete which can be molded into the many shapes and sizes you see in buildings, driveways, and other common everyday structures.
The strength and durability of concrete are determined by the water-cement ratios which are commonly indicated by “M” followed by a number.
For example, M10 would be a normal grade of concrete, M30 would be a standard grade, and M50+ would be a high-strength grade of concrete. The higher the number, the stronger the grade.
What is concrete used for?
Concrete is used for many of our everyday structures and neighborhoods. With its durability and stability, it's no wonder it is one of the most popular materials used in construction throughout the globe.
Concrete is one of the most widely used materials for driveways given its stability and durability. In addition, concrete driveways (as opposed to dirt or gravel driveways) are long-lasting and easy to maintain in varying climates like the hot summers in California or cold winters in Utah.
Sidewalks are another common use case for concrete. Many sidewalks are highly trafficked by pedestrians and require a material that is long-lasting and low maintenance.
With the capacity to oftentimes hold hundreds of vehicles, it's no wonder concrete is the choice material for parking structures. Nearly every parking structure you see is made from concrete.
Roads require a safe and durable material like concrete. Highly trafficked by vehicles, heavy loads from semi-trucks, vehicle fluid, etc. require a surface that is both safe and easy to maintain.
That’s precisely why you’ll see nearly every highway and road in the states made from concrete.
Whether it's a residential or commercial building, nearly every foundation is poured from concrete. Concrete provides both stability and security for the occupants and surrounding areas which is why concrete is the choice material for many buildings.
How to dispose of concrete?
With nearly 1.5 tons of concrete per capita produced each year in the United States, concrete waste is abundant. Whether it's from pouring a new driveway or replacing sidewalks concrete disposal is necessary.
Concrete Dumpster Rental
Depending on the amount of concrete you’re trying to get rid of, renting a dumpster may be your best option. Dumpsters that hold concrete are generally referred to as “lowboys” as they have low walls and are built to withstand heavy loads.
The cost to rent a lowboy dumpster can vary from location to location but range from a couple hundred dollars to over one thousand dollars. Although it's not the most economical option to get rid of your concrete, it may be the most convenient.
Take Your Concrete To A Landfill
If you have a minimal amount of concrete to dispose of (and have access to a truck), a more economical option would be to get rid of your concrete at a local landfill.
Most cities have local landfills that accept municipal waste like construction debris or household junk and some landfills that specialize in construction and demolition debris will take your concrete.
Make sure to call the local landfill beforehand to ensure they accept concrete. Additionally, if you have large slabs of concrete, you may want to break the pieces apart as some landfills charge extra for “hard to handle” debris.
Recycle Your Concrete
Seemingly everyone these days is looking for ways to recycle and be environmentally conscious. With that in mind, another alternative is to recycle your concrete. Recycled concrete has many uses including paving for walkways and driveways, ground covering, and many more.
Concrete is usually recycled using industrial machinery to pulverize the initial concrete waste and separated it from any additional materials (like dirt or other debris). If you want to do your part for the environment and reduce waste, recycling your concrete is a great option.
Many contractors are happy to pick up your concrete waste for free so they can use it for their current projects. Rather than rent a dumpster or take it to the landfill, why not offer it for free to a local business or contracting company?
Many cities offer local classified listings where you can post your concrete debris for free. Other sites like Craigslist or Freecycle have sections specifically dedicated to free items like concrete. Chances are, a local contractor will be more than happy to take the concrete off your hands-free of charge.
Building Supplies Companies
Check your local business listings to see if there are any local building supplies companies willing to take your unused concrete. This may take some legwork on your end making a few calls, but many companies are willing to reuse concrete for their projects.
Another option is to contact your local Habitat for Humanity. Habitat ReStores, for example, accept a variety of building materials. Get rid of your concrete and help out your community at the same time!
How to break up concrete
It goes without saying that you can’t just take your tired old concrete porch in all its glory to the landfill. You have to break up the concrete before you can transfer it by any means. Naturally, you might be thinking a good old sledgehammer and a pair of gloves will do the job.
But there are actually several ways to break up concrete.
One alternative to hammering away at your concrete slab is to use a chemical known as Dexpan. Dexpan is a chemical that is added to holes drilled in the concrete. Once it expands, it breaks the concrete into smaller pieces, which can easily be transported to a dumpster or taken to the landfill.
It can take about 24 hours for the Dexpan to fully expand, but it's a surefire way to cut down man hours with a sledgehammer or jackhammer.
Another option to break up concrete is the old-fashioned “get your hands dirty” method using tools like a sledgehammer or jackhammer. Obviously, this method will require some amount of physical labor if your doing the job yourself, or cost a few bucks to hire a worker to do it for you.
The sledgehammer is ideal for breaking up concrete that's only a few inches thick or less. For example, a sledgehammer would work great for driveways, walkways, and walls.
You might also consider getting a pair of safety goggles and gloves as breaking up concrete with a sledgehammer will likely cause a bit of debris to fly around. Safety first!
While you may not have a jackhammer lying around your house, if you’re working with larger slabs of concrete using a jackhammer will save you time and energy compared to a sledgehammer.
A sledgehammer is usually electrically powered and utilizes a high-powered and chiseled point to break apart the concrete chunks.
The price to rent a jackhammer can range anywhere from $75 to a couple of hundred dollars depending on where you rent and the type of jackhammer you need.
Types of concrete waste
Concrete rubble is essentially larger slabs of concrete broken down into smaller chunks. It’s an ideal form of concrete for recycling as concrete rubble can be re-used for other projects like gravel, retaining walls, or aggregates for making more concrete.
Clean concrete rubble can usually be recycled if it is free of other debris like dirt or yard waste. Not only is recycled rubble more economical, but it helps keep landfills free of other types of C&D or municipal waste.
Getting rid of concrete mix is as easy as getting rid of any other type of concrete debris. However, there are a few other considerations you might make.
One option is to simply let the concrete mix harden before taking it to the landfill or donating it. You can let the leftover concrete mix harden on a piece of cardboard for example and then crush it before distributing it as a base material for construction companies or local businesses.