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Environmental evaluation of green concretes versus conventional concrete by means of LCA

Turk, Janez, Cotič, Zvonko, Mladenovič, Ana, Šajna, Aljoša
Waste management 2015 v.45 pp. 194-205
cement, concrete, credit, environmental assessment, fly ash, industrial byproducts, industry, iron, life cycle assessment, mixing, models, natural resources, recycled materials, recycling, sand, slags, steel, wastes
A number of green concrete mixes having similar basic properties were evaluated from the environmental point of view by means of the Life Cycle Assessment method, and compared with a corresponding conventional concrete mix. The investigated green concrete mixes were prepared from three different types of industrial by-products, i.e. (1) foundry sand, and (2) steel slag, both of which were used as manufactured aggregates, and (3) fly ash, which was used as a mineral admixture. Some green concrete mixes were also prepared from a recycled aggregate, which was obtained from reinforced concrete waste. In some of the green concrete mixes the recycled aggregate was used in combination with the above-mentioned types of manufactured aggregate and fly ash. All of these materials are able, to some extent, to replace natural aggregate or Portland cement in concrete mixes, thus providing an environmental benefit from the point of view of the saving of natural resources. Taking into account consequential modelling, the credit related to the avoidance of the need to dispose of the waste materials is considered as a benefit. In case of the recycling of waste concrete into aggregate, credit is attributed to the recovery of scrap iron from the steel reinforcement. In the case of the use of steel slag, credit is attributed to the recovery of metals, which are extracted from the slag before being used as an alternative material. The disadvantage of using alternative materials and recycled aggregates can sometimes be their relatively long delivery distance. For this reason, a transport sensitivity analysis was carried out. The results indicate that the use of the discussed alternative and recycled materials is beneficial in the concrete production industry. Preference is given to the fly ash and foundry sand scenarios, and especially to those scenarios which are based on the combined use of recycled aggregate with these two alternative materials. It was found that longer delivery distances of the alternative materials do not necessarily affect the results significantly. However, variable delivery distances may have a greater effect when choosing between different alternative scenarios.