repurposed: agricultural waste in construction materials

posted June 13, 2018

As the interest in environmental sustainability continues to grow, many are curious as to how to reuse or re-imagine materials and substances that may be considered agricultural or construction waste. This interest may be partly fueled by pending shortages and rising input prices.

For example, insulation companies have developed alternative insulation materials from agricultural waste products. Additionally, researchers are looking for sustainable alternatives to concrete. A viable alternative to concrete derived from the root of mushrooms and fungi, along with other materials, may soon be worth considering. In fact, there are many ways in which agricultural and food waste can be remade and kept out of landfills.

Using sustainable alternatives often will potentially reduce the construction costs for materials. New home construction using agricultural waste materials is becoming more common. Sustainable materials are often appreciated by homeowners who may be looking to make their own homes environmentally friendly.

Using Agricultural Waste as Construction Material

Construction materials can be composed of many types of waste and be beneficial in resource management. There are predictions that use of organic waste materials can help reduce levels of waste. Building materials may be made up of waste from maize, potatoes and bananas.

The construction industry relies heavily on raw materials. Re-imagining the use of organic waste streams can offer lower-cost materials to the industry. There have been advances that can make it possible to create mushroom bricks and derive insulation from waste potatoes. Agricultural waste products that can be used within construction materials include:

  • Potato peels- This organic product can be used in the manufacturing of an acoustic absorbent insulating material that is water repellent, fire resistant and low-weight.
  • Banana leaves and fruit- The high strength fiber can be used in the making of rugged textiles.
  • Peanut shells- Shells can be a raw materials that may be incorporated into the production of materials such as low-cost partition boards that are both moisture resistant and flame retardant.

These waste products are often discarded. It has been reported that food waste amounting to 60 million tons goes into landfills and could be used in the manufacturing of building materials.

Advanced Research and Comparisons Continue

According to one study, traditional concrete has been compared to self-compacting concrete made in part with agro-waste. This agro-waste concrete was composed of materials including tobacco waste, husk ash, cork, oyster shell and groundnut shell. This concrete mixture performed better in terms of workability compared to their counterparts. Such materials can be used as a fine aggregate replacement to as much as 20 percent.

When it came to mortar, adding bagasse ash appeared to increase resistance to chloride penetration and including cork resulted in improved cyclic performance and better thermal resistance. It appears that more research on the use of agro-waste continues on many different fronts.

Planning for a Sustainable Future with Agro-waste Construction Materials

The construction industry may be able to successfully deal with shortages in resources and increased prices for materials by looking at the potential of agro-waste construction products. Such products may offer practical solutions when it comes to long-lasting construction materials that are gentle on the environment and in some cases, such as with concrete, help reduce global carbon dioxide emissions when used as an alternative.

Everyone, from construction companies, agricultural interests, investors and homeowners should all be aware of sustainable agricultural waste products. These products, when used in various ways, construction being one, can not only help the environment, but potentially also the pocketbook.

This is a guest post by Gred Geilman President and CEO of South Bay Residential, manhattan beach CA 90266. Find him online, on twitter, on linkedIn, Facebook and Yelp