How to dispose of cement powder? (5 don’ts)

The article answers some basic questions regarding the sustainability of cement and focuses on the following topics:

  • Is cement biodegradable?
  • How to dispose of cement powder properly
  • Is it eco-friendly?
  • Effects of improper disposal of cement powder.
  • Alternatives of cement powder and their actual role
  • Can cement powder be recycled?
  • What happens when cement powder is not disposed of properly?
  • What are the dos and don’ts of disposing of cement powder?
  • FAQs

How to dispose of cement powder?

Cement powder is not biodegradable and it is not advised to throw it in trash cans. One of the best ways to dispose of it is to recycle it. Otherwise, dispose it of in special containers that are moisture free. 

Although cement powder is considered not significantly harmful, it can still be hazardous if not treated properly because contains a hazardous chemical called chromium VI which leaves fumes through the process of hydration which means it dissolves in water hence disposing it of in an improper manner increases the risk of it coming in contact with water through rain, pipelines etc. 

Cement production requires mining which causes air and soil pollution, affects biodiversity and is very harmful. Secondly, to produce cement it has to be subjected to temperatures of over 1000℃ which requires a lot of fossil fuel burning and that is the reason why the cement industry uses almost 10% of the total electricity supply globally.

Is it okay to dispose of cement powder in trash cans?

No, cement powder should never be disposed of in a trash can and there are several reasons for it. Cement is made of multiple substances and most companies put an expiration date of three months when cement powder is packaged. So what happens when cement expires and what it has to do with being put in a trash can?

Firstly, cement is packed in a way to protect it from moisture because moisture can alter the quality of the cement. If cement powder is kept properly dry then it can remain usable for definite periods however once it comes in contact with water, the scenario becomes dangerous.

Cement powder contains a chemical known as Chromium VI. It is present in trace amounts in cement powder and is a hazardous chemical but chromium VI only becomes hazardous by dissolving in water hence when cement comes in contact with moisture, chromium VI is activated and can leave off dangerous fumes.

So, Putting cement powder in a trash can makes it highly probable for it to come into contact with water. The companies normally put reducing agents in cement to keep chromium VI at lower possible levels but after expiration, it is no longer protected and hence becomes dangerous once it hardens after some period. It becomes harmless. 

Is cement powder biodegradable?

No, although cement powder is made of substances found naturally such as limestone etc. it does not contain any organic substance which makes it non-biodegradable because it is not decomposed or is degraded by microorganisms i.e., fungi, bacteria, and nematodes as it does not offer them any nutritional component.

It may sound a bit weird but being non-biodegradable does not always equate to being “harmful” to the environment because there are many natural substances which are non-biodegradable. The more appropriate thing would be to see if they are sustainable or not. Meaning whether their use causes any danger to the environment.

Cement powder is non-biodegradable, but at the same time, it can be termed as sustainable (considering only the property of cement power and not the production method) because it does not by itself cause any harm to the environment.

Is it possible to recycle cement powder?

Yes, it is actually possible to recycle cement powder but the process depends on whether it has been used to make concrete or it remains in the form of cement powder.

If cement powder has not been used and the expiry date has passed then it can easily be recycled by sending it to a recycling facility which can use a number of fairly simple methods to recycle.

However, once the cement has been used to make concrete then it still can be recycled but the process would require much more energy and effort as it now has to be crushed and have other substances separated which makes the process tiresome. 

What happens when cement powder is not disposed of properly?

As discussed earlier, cement powder contains a hazardous chemical called chromium VI which leaves fumes through the process of hydration which means it dissolves in water hence disposing it of in an improper manner increases the risk of it coming in contact with water through rain, pipelines etc. 

Secondly, if it is dumped in a single place it increases the water-holding capacity of the soil by blocking the access to the ground under it which increases the risk of flooding under heavy rain. 

Lastly, if it is thrown beside biodegradable material it can harden after coming in contact with water which affects the process of biodegradation for other types of waste material because it can take up space inside reactors or composters. 

What are the dos and don’ts of disposing of cement powder? (5 don’ts of disposing of cement powder)

Disposing of cement powder in a proper way can help reduce its harmful effects and also other related effects. Here is how to properly dispose of cement powder. Here are do’s

  • Keep it in water and air-tight bag
  • Always keep it safe from any contact with water or moisture.
  • If it has not expired, turn it into concrete or sell it before it expires as its value does not diminish.
  • If it has expired, send it to a proper recycling facility or any cement production facility near you.

Here are the things to avoid when disposing of cement powder. Here are the don’ts:

  • Never keep the cement bag open or dump it openly.
  • Never dump it in a trash can.
  • Never mix water with expired cement, instead send it to a recycling facility.
  • Never dump it in agricultural fields.
  • Never mix it up with domestic waste 

Can you compost cement powder?

No, it cannot be composted. Composting is a process by which organic substances are turned into nutrient-rich substances which can be added to soil as fertilizers. As we know that cement is neither biodegradable nor an organic compound hence composting is not possible for cement powder.

Is it eco-friendly? If not, what are the alternatives?

Cement is not eco-friendly and the reason for it does not cement itself but the way it is produced. The cement industry is responsible for millions of tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere and the primary reason for this is the burning of fossil fuels.

Cement production requires mining which causes air and soil pollution, affects biodiversity and is very harmful. Secondly, to produce cement it has to be subjected to temperatures of over 1000℃ which requires a lot of fossil fuel burning and that is the reason why the cement industry uses almost 10% of the total electricity supply globally.

Cement is mainly used to form concrete hence one has to find an alternative to concrete to get rid of cement powder. There are several alternatives which claim to be “greener” such as Green concrete, Ashcrete, Composite cement etc. but these cannot as of yet be considered “eco-friendly” for the following reason.

These solutions do not take the supply chain problem into account. For example, Ashcrete utilises flash which is a byproduct of coal combustion which was previously dumped in landfills. No, if Ashcrete was to replace cement as an “eco-friendly” option then it would require millions of tons of coal burning which means that the problem of burning fossil fuels remains the same.

Conclusion

It is concluded that cement powder is not biodegradable and it is not advised to throw it in trash cans. One of the best ways to dispose of it is to recycle it. Otherwise, dispose it of in special containers that are moisture free. 

Although cement powder is considered not significantly harmful, it can still be hazardous if not treated properly because contains a hazardous chemical called chromium VI which leaves fumes through the process of hydration which means it dissolves in water hence disposing it of in an improper manner increases the risk of it coming in contact with water through rain, pipelines etc. 

Cement production requires mining which causes air and soil pollution, affects biodiversity and is very harmful. Secondly, to produce cement it has to be subjected to temperatures of over 1000℃ which requires a lot of fossil fuel burning and that is the reason why the cement industry uses almost 10% of the total electricity supply globally.

Rising global demand for concrete means an “eco-friendly” alternative not only has to be sustainable but also has to meet the supply chain demands without creating any increased demand for energy to be actually considered as an alternative otherwise we would be shifting one problem to another without actually solving anything. 

As for now, we have to take care of using every bit of cement carefully and focus on finding new energy alternatives to shift our focus from fossil fuel as a first step to solving the cement problem and that is what we need to push on.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to dispose of cement powder?

Is cement powder sustainable or not?

cement powder is considered not significantly harmful, it can still be hazardous if not treated properly because it contains a hazardous chemical called chromium VI. Cement production requires mining which causes air and soil pollution, affects biodiversity and is very harmful.

Can you compost cement powder?

No, you can not compost cement powder since it is not biodegradable or made from non-toxic materials. 

Can you throw cement powder in trash cans?

It is not advised to throw cement powder in trash cans or mix it with other waste because it can be hazardous as the chromium VI in cement powder may come in contact with water and cause havoc. 

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