Concrete Environmental Issues & The Ideal Concrete Plant
Envision a concrete plant - the most environmentally perfect concrete plant in the world. What's it like?
- The plant is located near the customer base it serves, minimizing the transport of the finished product - concrete - to their customers, as well as the associated fuel use, traffic, and exhaust emissions. It's also located near public transportation, which many of the plant employees use.
- The plant is also not far from their raw material sources. Cement kilns produce cement not too far away and sand and stone are produced nearby. Having several sources available, the concrete plant has selected their suppliers not only on the basis of quality and cost, but also since they share the same environmental vision as does the concrete plant and their parent company.
- The plant makes use of supplemental cementiceous materials (SCMs) as much as possible in place of ordinary portland cement, thereby both reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint associated with cement, and also helping reduce the amount of waste the plant's area has to deal with. These materials include fly ash and slag, both of which also help to produce a superior product - no quality reductions at this plant.
- The generation of process water is kept to as little as possible - and all process water generated is recycled for further concrete production. There is no discharge of any process water from this plant at all.
- In order to reduce potable water use at the plant, stormwater capturing is used to collect this free source of clean water, which is then used for concrete production, truck washing, dust control, and green space watering. Some stormwater does runoff from the plant site, but under the control of appropriate stormwater BMPs and a SWPPP stormwater plan, which ensure that the stormwater leaving the site has little impact on adjacent waterways.
- Due to careful sales and ordering practices, little returned concrete is generated. A strong QC program also ensure that few loads are rejected. What returned concrete there is goes to a concrete reclaimer which extracts the sand and stone in the concrete, and allows the process water and cement past to be recycled as part of new concrete production. There are no solid wastes generated at all.
- Plant siting and construction was done with the environment in mind. Green areas remain, providing some wildlife habitat, a buffer of thick screening vegetation was preserved along property lines reducing noise and visual impact, and as much pervious concrete on the plant site as possible was used.
- The plant's company regularly incorporates environmental training, and involves all employees in the plant's environmental program. All participate. The plant also regularly perform environmental audits to determine their compliance level.
- In order to manage their environmental program, this concrete plant uses an environmental management system , and as result this plant has received the NRMCA Green-Star and/or ISO 14001 EMS certifications.
- The plant uses jobsite rinseoff techniques for all loads delivered, and doesn't waste time or resources rinsing at the site. These include chute washoff buckets on most of the trucks.
- And best of all, customers of this plant enjoy this difference, as do employees, neighbors, and corporate stockholders. They realize that this plant is a partner in their environmental vision, and they are willing to pay a premium for this difference. This plant also does a great job at telling people about their environmental achievements and vision. And, that's right, they get more for their concrete over the competition, and have a healthier bottom line.
Does this plant exist? Does this plant sound like yours, or is the other end of the spectrum from your plant?
I've yet to see this plant. But I have been fortunate enough to see plants which incorporate many of these traits, although maybe not all of them. How about your plant? How many of these traits do you employ? All of them? Some of them? Or, none of them?
Using this listing as a scorecard, where do you rank?
If you aren't the ideal concrete plant, don't worry - you're not alone. But you need to know that the industry is heading in this direction. Maybe not towards perfection (although that would be nice!), but towards continuous improvement. Getting better all the time. Reducing environmental impact. Becoming more sustainable.
Where do you stand? Where can you improve? What are you waiting for?