Finding a concrete solution for sustainability

Posted: June 21, 2021

In a little more than a year, the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering has diverted from the landfill more than 30 tons of cement and concrete. 

CEGE concrete and cement recycling efforts
Matt Fetters and FOD Zero Waste student interns Kaiya Weston [left] and Olivia Severyn [right] celebrate the first cement and concrete recycling collection.

Matt Fetters, the department’s civil engineering lab manager, found a sustainable application for the waste, which is generated after use in experiments and teaching labs. 

“I did some homework and came up with contacts in the industry that are happy to have our waste and process it locally for fill as aggregate in their concrete and cement,” he says, noting that he worked with Zero Waste at Ohio State’s Facilities Operations and Development (FOD) to build the connections needed for the change.  

Previously, his department paid FOD to break up the waste two to three times a year and haul it to a landfill. Now, Zero Waste rents the department a dumpster and moves the waste to Geiger Excavating Inc. in Columbus. 

 

“FOD applauds Matt Fetters for identifying an opportunity to divert additional materials from the landfill and proactively seeking out a local processor for the concrete and cement,” says Molly Kathleen, Zero Waste coordinator in FOD. “The new program gives used lab materials a second life as a recycled aggregate, which helps make progress toward Ohio State’s zero waste goal by diverting additional materials from the landfill.”  

The sustainable solution dovetails into the department’s research and teaching. 

Concrete and cements being recycled on-site.
Geiger Excavating Inc., where cement and concrete from CEGE research and teaching activities is delivered for recycling.

“The concrete comes from research projects that have a goal of extending the durability of materials used in bridges and structures as well as creating new formulations to reduce the carbon footprint for making modern concrete,” Fetters says.  

As lab manager, Fetters incorporates safety as he facilitates FOD repairs and cleaning at the department and coordinates with the university’s Environmental Health and Safety to meet university standards. 

“With two young children, I’ve learned to look out for them and their futures too!” Fetters says. “So safety isn’t just for the people in the lab but for the children who inherit this earth from our generation as well.” 

- by Joan Wall, Sustainability Institute at The Ohio State University

Category: Research