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Carbon footprint of concrete based on secondary materials

R.N. van Gijlswijk1, S. Pascale2, S.E. de Vos1, G. Urbano3

1 Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, Utrecht, the Netherlands
2 Technologies for Building Renovation, Naples, Italy
3 D’Appolonia S.p.A, Genova, Italy

The use of secondary materials instead of primary raw materials in concrete is a way to decrease its environmental impact. On the one hand it gives a high grade use to the secondary material, thereby avoiding disposal. On the other hand, the production of concrete no longer involves preparation and/or mining of primary raw materials. This way, concrete from secondary materials has the potential to save energy and associated CO2-emissions compared to more traditional concrete. However, the conversion of secondary material into binders and aggregates with desired properties requires an energy consuming process as well, and an investment. How does it influence the overall impact on the environment?

This paper presents the exploration of the environmental advantages and disadvantages of several secondary raw materials-based concrete formulations compared to traditional lightweight concrete in building applications. Recommendations are provided on how the environmental performance of concretes based on secondary raw materials can be improved over their life cycle.

Key words: Secondary raw materials, embodied energy, carbon footprint, disposal, life-cycle assessment, SUS-CON