Utne Blogs > Environment

A Solid Idea: Greener Concrete

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, green living, global warming, climate change, sustainable business, construction,

Cement truck

Rail all you want against paving paradise, but concrete is going to be with us for a while. We might as well make it greener, right? Environmental Building News writes in its August 2009 issue about a new disposal system for concrete washout, the water left over after washing down concrete equipment. Washout, the magazine writes, “can be nearly as caustic as drain cleaner and can contain metals that are toxic to aquatic life, including chromium, copper, and zinc.”

To make proper disposal easier and certain, Atlantic Concrete Washout delivers an empty sealed container to construction sites, and workers put the washout into it. When it’s full, the company sends a truck to pump out the water, separates the solids from the water, and sends the water to a state industrial wastewater treatment facility.

Environmental Building News points out that it can be expensive and gas-intensive to tote these heavy water loads around, but still the Environmental Protection Agency regards the containers as the best way to contain concrete wastewater. Atlantic Concrete Washout operates in Florida and California (under the name National Concrete Washout), but such services are springing up across the United States. And at least one firm, California's On Site Washout Corp., is selling self-contained washout disposal equipment for job sites.

The concrete industry is addressing the larger issue of climate change, too. World Watch (Sept.-Oct. 2009) reports that the industry’s Cement Sustainability Initiative “has helped the world’s 18 leading cement companies slow the growth of their carbon dioxide emissions. Net emissions grew only 35 percent from 1990 to 2006, while cement production climbed 53 percent.”

Sources: Building Green, World Watch (article not available online)

Image by ThrasherDave, licensed under Creative Commons.