Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The reinforcing steel used in concrete is virtually 100% recycled from other metal products. Likewise, cement often is replaced by supplemental cementitious materials that otherwise would enter the waste stream. This contribution by reinforced concrete in providing recycled materials is recognized by LEED. More than 7 million tons of scrap steel is recycled into reinforcing bars every year, virtually the entire feedstock. This recycling avoids a massive energy expenditure — one ton of steel reinforcing bars would otherwise require about 2,500 pounds of ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone. Reinforcing bar is typically made in electric arc furnaces, which produce about 45% of the steel products made in America. Nearly 100% of the feedstock used for producing reinforcing bars is provided by recycled ferrous scrap.

Recyclable

Steel reinforcement is infinitely recyclable, meaning it typically is recycled by demolition contractors, who sell the bars as ferrous scrap. The steel is reclaimed by crushing the concrete and retrieving the bars with hammers, breakers, and grappling hooks mounted onto heavy equipment. The steel is then cut into pieces, using torches and cutting tools. The steel is sold to plants and reused as new quality steel products. More than 65% of all reinforcing bars are recycled, according to The Steel Recycling Institute. Likewise, the concrete can be crushed and reused as aggregates in new concrete structures, in roadbeds, and for breakwaters as larger pieces. The combination of recycling activities for reinforcing steel and concrete make it a totally cradle-to-cradle building material that is recognized by sustainable-design organizations worldwide.

Reduced Waste

Concrete components typically are cast as specified, with little excess produced. What waste accrues through cutouts, etc., can be recycled. Many steel and concrete plants have instituted water-recycling programs and other environmental processes to further reduce the manufacturing impact.

 

Must-Have Resources

Building Green with Reinforced Concrete  

Reinforcing steel is a virtually 100% recyclable product that provides cradle-to-cradle construction. Building owners and users have discovered the array of benefits achieved with sustainable construction.