Researchers to develop concrete partially replacing sand with plastic

Academics from the University of Bath have teamed up with Indian researchers in a two-year project to create concrete that uses plastic waste as a partial replacement for sand.

The project team, funded by the British Council under the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) programme, will design and produce a concrete mix in which 10% of sand is replaced with shredded plastic waste.

The research will also investigate how replacing sand with plastic in concrete affects its strength and durability, fire and thermal properties.

Sand extraction from riverbeds has now been banned in most Indian states after high demand for concrete from India’s thriving construction industry led to a rapid rise in unregulated sand mining.

Another consequence of rapid development in India is a record level of plastic waste being sent to landfill, much of which comes from discarded carrier bags and packaging.

Low-impact concrete

Application of this new technology would solve both problems – an over-abundance of plastic waste and a lack of sand for construction.

India is currently the second largest global manufacturer of cement having produced an estimated 270 million tonnes in 2012, so the market for such technology is potentially prolific. 

Indian project lead professor Pumanand Savoikar said: “We plan to train 40 engineering students to design and produce structural concrete from plastic waste and teach them how best to use it during construction. This will help to create awareness of low impact concrete among industry, leading to greater use in general construction.”

University of Bath researcher Dr John Orr said: “This research has the potential to recycle waste in a useful, commercially-viable way.

“At the University’s BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials we will determine the optimum size and aspect ratio for the replacement plastic particles to ensure strength, durability and fire performance criteria can be met, with the aim of providing the Indian construction industry with a viable alternative to sand.”

Lois Vallely

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