ideas how to recycle concrete

Recycled Concrete Stairway | Six ideas for diverting concrete from landfill

How can I possibly recycle concrete? 

This is not quite your everyday recycling question about commonly used household stuff, but when our concrete stairway started to fall apart, I had to look for recycling ideas! What can I do? I hate the idea of my stairs being demolished and all that concrete simply going to waste. So, I started researching about this topic!

recycled concrete stairs
Concrete and cement are widely used in construction but their environmental impact is high

My first realization was that concrete and cement are actually not great for the environment! Between the mining of raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions generated during the manufacturing process, it is hard not to see their huge impact on the environment. On top of that, concrete and cement are widely used materials – thanks to their durability – but when demolished the waste generally ends up in landfill. 

So, how can you recycle concrete?

There are places that accept concrete for recycling, but it is not always clear what they do with it. Also, some places charge a fee for it. I am fortunate I can afford it and will happily pay, but I understand that may be a barrier for many people wanting to do the right thing. Another barrier is transportion. In most cases you have to take your waste to the facility. Loading heavy weight materials into a car is again not always possible.

Six ideas for repurposing concrete

1. Stairway

steep garden recycled concrete tairway
Garden stairways are useful to reach hard-to-access areas of the garden

From stairway to stairway… While my concrete steps are not safe to connect my downstairs area to our house’s backdoor, they would work very well in a steep outdoor area that would be inaccessible without steps. I really like this idea, but my garden is mostly flat, which takes me to my next possibility.

2. Pavers

recycled concrete pavers
Recycled concrete pavers can create a nice walkway between areas

Between our garage and the house we have a pretty sad looking muddy patch. Because we walk there, nothing seems to grow underneath and when it rains, the muddy patch becomes very slippery. I quite like the idea of my old stairs turning into a walkway between the house and the garage. I can also see some ground cover plants growing around it. Pretty please!

3. Concrete bench

recycled concrete slab garden bench
Concrete slabs turned into a bench

I love the idea of turning my concrete slabs into a bench where we can sit and relax. Another exciting possibility is the bench around the tree. Our three kids love climbing trees and it is no surprise that is their favorite option. 

4. Garden bed/wall

garden bed recycled concrete
Garden bed made with concrete slabs

As an Enviromom, one of my aims is to grow a bit more produce at home. While I have had some success in growing herbs, overall I am not there yet! Growing food is a labour of love and dedication. But I do like the idea of repurposing my concrete slabs into garden beds for all sorts of plants – I normally go for the low maintenance ones! 

5. Cement furniture and decor items

Recycled cement is becoming a very popular material for all things interior design. From kitchen and bathroom benches, to flooring and fruit bowls, small broken pieces of concrete can be turned into desirable objects. Why not try to contact a local artist and see if they would take your concrete waste?

6. Fire Pit

fire pit made with concrete pieces
Fire Pits are a great option – when safe

Sitting around a warm fire on a cold winter’s night toasting marshmallows and sipping wine is very close to my idea of paradise! Sadly, in my urban backyard, this is not an option, I am too scared of the proximity of other houses and would not like to see my neighbors breathing all that smoke! But for those living in a more rural setting with plenty of safe space, a fire pit that turns into an open oven is definitely a good use of concrete waste. 

After spending hours looking at options, I still haven’t quite made my mind! But it is a relief to know that there are options.

No matter how big or little your actions are, it all counts.