Recycling - Concrete for the environment

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Recycling - Concrete for the environment

Concrete is the most frequently used material on earth, after water. It is nontoxic, environmentally safe and composed of natural materials. Concrete does not molder, rust, or burn.And it can be recycled.

Consolis's factories cast more than 1 million m³ of concrete annually, making them the largest producer of precast concrete products in Europe. Elematic, as part of the Consolis Group, is the leading one-stop-supplier of products and technology for the precast concrete industry. Being a global leader is a responsible position, and for Consolis and Elematic this means leading the way also in eco-friendly thinking. Mr. Bengt Jansson, President and CEO of Consolis, has a bird's-eye view from his office window of the neighboring construction site, where a huge shopping- and recreation center is rising, using an estimated 20 000 m³ of concrete products. If, after a life span of anything between fifty and hundreds of years, the buildings are torn down, the concrete can be crushed and used for soil enrichment purposes, for example.

Consolis, enviromentally motivated

The Consolis Group has a long history of caring for the environment. In the eighties, factory environments greatly improved with the introduction of new extruder technology, where low noise shear compaction, patented by Elematic, replaced the earlier extremely noisy vibration method for achieving the required gauge. The Consolis companies together have unique possibilities to research and develop solutions and methods as well as to study the environmental impacts of manufacturing processes. "The aim is to work in close cooperation with customers to make products even more environmentally friendly, to generate manufacturing processes that burden the environment as little as possible, and optimally to also manufacture products, that help in preserving the environment," describes Mr. Jansson. "Examples of such products are noise protection barriers, pipelines capable of heat recovery, and sedimentation tanks."

Clean up, sort out, and reuse

One of the most important measures related to eco-friendly manufacturing today is recycling. There is an increasing awareness in the industry of preserving our geographical environment in addition to improving the immediate factory environments, and in Finland a law on cleaning wastewater came into force in 2001. Shortly after this Consolis launched a project to generate a recycling system for precast concrete production sites. The intention was to not only clean waste water, but to also recycle and reuse it. In realizing this project, Consolis turned to Elematic to provide the technology.

The Elematic recycling system

The Elematic recycling system consists of a recycling center and of channels conveying the slurry and excess concrete from the factory floors and bed aisles to the center. The system is based on sedimentation, and separates the rock material from the water. The wastewater is then purified and can be reused in the factory. The rock material can be used for soil enrichment purposes, for example. Looking around for a suitable pioneering plant for the recycling system, the optimum location was found within Consolis: the Parma precast concrete factory in Hyrylä, just outside the Finnish capital, Helsinki. The factory is now living its first exiting months with their new recycling system.

Big, (b)old,and beautiful

The Hyrylä factory was founded in 1971 and currently employs over fifty. A yearly production capacity of nearly 1 000 000 m² of hollow-core precast concrete products makes it among the largest of its kind in Europe. The factory fits 24 casting beds measuring 110 meters each. According to the Factory Manager Mr. Tapani Paavilainen, approximately 15 million m² of hollow-core slabs have left the plant since it started, some travelling as far as Argentina. All products have a type approval from the Ministry of Environment, and the factory has an EN-9001 certified quality system and a certified ISO-14000 environmental system. The manufacturing process swallows 65 000 m³ of concrete per year, and all in the entire factory uses almost 18 000 m³ of water yearly. Water is needed both for mixing the concrete and for wet sawing of the slabs. "In the future, we only need to buy water for sawing purposes, and the savings involve up to 8000 m³ of water, that is now recycled and reused", describes a pleased Mr. Paavilainen. The water that still reaches the local river through the sewage system and ultimately ends up in the Baltic is now clean.

Recycling system makes factory a comfort zone

Mr. Mikko Henriksson, Elematic Project Manager for the implementation of the recycling system at Parma, is just as excited as Mr. Paavilainen about the positive impact of the new system. "Earlier, the slurry channels running into the local sewage system had to be emptied and cleaned 5-6 times a year, which was very expensive". "This is no longer needed and the resulting savings help pay back the recycling investment", says Mr. Henriksson. In countries where factory discharges and other burdens to the environment are costly, the recycling system can pay itself back in a year, even! In addition to the eco-friendly impact and saving of water and money, the new recycling system also affects the factory environment itself, as it helps keep the working area cleaner. Earlier a large part of the slurry from sawing and excess concrete was left on the floor, making the factory unpleasant and the floor downright dangerous. Last year, some 5 workers attained injuries from slipping on the dirty floor. Today, the production environment is pleasantly clean and much safer. Workers are naturally very satisfied with this and have welcomed the recycling system.

Elematic, for a greener and cleaner future

In the future, all major new precast concrete factories within Consolis will be equipped with a recycling system. The principle of eco-friendly thinking is also part of the Consolis TOB (Transfer of best practice), and among other things the energy consumption is measured and compared at 52 factories within the Group. To sum up, the future is looking greener and cleaner. Elematic continues to develop improved technological solutions for the industry, solutions that are energy saving, efficient, user-friendly, and durable - ecologically for employees and environment.

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