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Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244

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Mechanical properties and abrasion behaviour of concrete containing

shredded PET bottle waste as a partial substitution of natural aggregate
Nabajyoti Saikia a,b, Jorge de Brito a,⇑
Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Instituto Superior Técnico, Technical University of Lisbon, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
School of Engineering and Technology, Kaziranga University, Jorhat 785006, Assam, India

h i g h l i g h t s

 Plastic waste in concrete production.

 Innovative comparison methodology between concrete mixes.
 Influence of the shape and size of the plastic particles.
 Influence of different incorporation ratios of plastic waste.
 Determination of abrasion resistance.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The purpose of this work is to evaluate the effects of size and shape of recycled polyethylene terephthal-
Received 23 June 2012 ate (PET) aggregate on the fresh and hardened properties, including abrasion resistance, of concrete. 5%,
Received in revised form 11 November 2013 10% and 15% in volume of natural aggregate in the concrete mixes were replaced by an equal volume of
Accepted 12 November 2013
three differently shaped and sized PET-aggregates. The results indicate that the slump of fresh concrete
Available online 5 December 2013
increases slightly with the incorporation of pellet-shaped PET-aggregate. Flakier plastic aggregate sharply
decreases the slump of the fresh concrete and it further decreases if the content and size of this type of
PET-aggregate increase. The compressive strength, tensile splitting strength, modulus of elasticity and
PET bottle waste
flexural strength of concrete deteriorate due to the incorporation of PET-aggregate and the deterioration
Concrete of these properties intensifies with increasing content of this aggregate. Differences in size, shape and
Aggregate texture of PET-aggregates change the water to cement ratio as well as the slump of fresh concrete mixes,
Mechanical properties which ultimately change the mechanical behaviour. Flaky PET-aggregates bridge the two separated con-
Abrasion resistance crete pieces and therefore prevent concrete from breaking apart after failure. The abrasion resistance of
concrete mixes containing various types of PET-aggregate is better than that of the reference concrete.
The abrasion resistance of concrete with incorporation of various types and contents of PET-aggregates
can be related to its compressive strength.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction workability, strength, dimensional stability, and durability. The

use of waste materials as aggregate in concrete preparation can
It is becoming increasingly important to manage and treat both consume vast amounts of waste materials. This can solve problems
the solid waste generated by industry and municipal waste. This of lack of aggregate on construction sites and reduce environmental
waste ranges from the relatively inert, e.g. glass bottles, excavated problems related to aggregate mining and waste disposal. There is a
soil, construction and demolition waste, to hazardous waste with growing interest in using waste materials as aggregate and consid-
high concentrations of heavy metals and toxic organic compounds. erable research has been undertaken on the use of many different
Several waste materials are extensively used as raw material to materials as aggregate substitutes. Among the materials studied
produce cement, as mineral addition to blended cement and as are granulated coal ash, blast furnace slag, fibre glass waste materi-
aggregate and filler when making concrete [1]. als, waste plastics, rubber waste and sintered sludge pellets [1].
Aggregate typically accounts for 65–80% of the concrete volume Huge amounts of plastic solid waste are generated all over the
and it plays a substantial role in concrete properties such as world by the consumption of packaged products. In Portugal
post-consumer packaging accounts for almost 40% of total domes-
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +351 218419709; fax: +351 218497650. tic waste, making it an important source for the recycled materials
E-mail address: (J. de Brito).
market. In a typical Portugal municipality about 10–14% of total

0950-0618/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244 237

generated waste is plastic [2]. Plastic waste cannot be dumped in Table 1

landfills because of its bulk and slow degradation rate. The high Seive analysis of various PET-aggregates.

calorific value of plastic waste can be used for incineration or other Sieve size (mm) Cumulative amount passed (%)
high temperature processes, but its combustion produces danger- PC PF PP
ous gases that could be harmful to human health. Although some
16.0 100.00 100.00 100.00
alternatives, apart from landfilling, are feasible, recycling waste 11.2 99.96 100.00 100.00
plastic to produce new materials such as concrete seems to be 8.0 97.69 100.00 100.00
one of the best ways to dispose of waste plastics, because of its eco- 5.6 49.24 100.00 100.00
nomic and ecological advantages. 4.0 20.59 99.99 99.46
2.0 0.89 45.65 7.93
Plastic waste has to be mechanically separated and processed in
1.0 0.02 0.94 0.04
order to produce plastic-based aggregate. A life cycle analysis of 0.5 0.00 0.01 0.02
mixed household plastics shows that mechanical recycling pro- 0.25 0.00 0.00 0.00
vides a higher net positive environmental impact than the recovery 0.125 0.00 0.00 0.00
of energy or land-filling [3–5]. There is significant potential for the 0.063 0.00 0.00 0.00
Residue 0.00 0.00 0.00
use of plastic waste as aggregate in concrete preparation. The incor-
poration of plastics in concrete can significantly improve some
properties of concrete as plastic has high toughness, good abrasion reference concrete containing normal density NA only, and they
behaviour, low thermal conductivity and high heat capacity [6–8]. further decrease with increasing PA content in concrete [26,27].
Different types of plastic waste such as polyethylene tere- However, it has been claimed that the incorporation of shredded
phthalate (PET) bottles [9–16], polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes PET-aggregate up to a certain level does not influence the compres-
[17], high density polyethylene (HDPE) [18], thermosetting plastics sive and flexural strengths of cement mortar [14]. The properties of
[19], mixed plastic waste [20,21], expanded polystyrene foam concrete containing PA as lightweight aggregate are similar or even
(EPS) [22], polyurethane foam [23,24], polycarbonate [12], and better than those of concrete containing some other commonly
glass reinforced plastic (GRP) [25] have all been used as aggregate, used natural lightweight aggregates [27]. The decrease in bond
filler or fibre in the preparation of cement mortar/concrete after strength between PA and cement paste and the inhibition of ce-
mechanical treatment. ment hydration due to the hydrophobic nature of plastic are the
There are two schools of thought on the workability behaviour reasons indicated in several studies for the poor mechanical prop-
of concrete containing plastic aggregate (PA) [26]): (1) the incorpo- erties of concrete containing plastic [26,27]. Curing conditions also
ration of PA decreases the slump of fresh concrete because of its have an effect on the mechanical and durability properties of con-
sharp edges and angular particle shape; (2) concrete mixes con- crete with plastic [15,16]. Coating plastics with slag and sand pow-
taining PA have more free water as PA neither absorbs water nor ders and treating plastic chemically can improve the mechanical
adds any to the concrete mix and this increases slump. PA is signif- performance of concrete by improving the interaction between ce-
icantly lighter than natural aggregate (NA) and therefore the incor- ment paste and PA [18,28,29]. The use of granulated blast furnace
poration of PA decreases the fresh and dry densities of the resulting slag (GBFS) or fly ash as mineral admixtures can also improve the
concrete [26]. This property can be useful in the development of mechanical behaviour of concrete [10,19].
light-weight concrete or other cement composites. Concrete containing PA can stop or divert the propagation of
The strength properties and modulus of elasticity of concrete microcracks and improve concrete toughness, which is of great
containing various types of PA are always lower than those of a practical significance [12,21]. The incorporation of plastic pieces

Fig. 1. PET-aggregate types used in this work: (A) PC; (B) PF; (C) PP.
238 N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244

Table 2 100
Experimental methods used to determine various aggregate properties.
Properties Standard used 80

Amount Passed (%)

Natural aggregate 70
Sieve analysis NP EN 933-2 60
Particle density EN 1097-6 50
Water absorption EN 1097-6
Loose bulk density ASTM C 29/C 29M-97
Shape index NP EN 933-4 30
Los-Angeles tests LNEC E237 20
Plastic aggregate 10
Sieve analysis NP EN 933-2 0
Particle density EN 1097-6 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Water absorption EN 1097-6 Sieve Size, mm (in log scale)
Loose bulk density ASTM C 29/C 29M-97
Fig. 2. Aggregate grading size distribution curve used in this research (with
markers) along with the grading size distribution curves of NA.

certain applications (hydraulic structures and floors/pavements).

in plain concrete improves its thermal insulation performance, but
Abrasion can destroy the integrity of concrete surfaces, which must
this depends on the shape of the plastic pieces [30]. The permeabil-
be durable and long-lasting. The American Concrete Institute de-
ity of concrete is improved by the incorporation of plastic as aggre-
fines abrasion resistance as ‘‘the ability of a surface to resist being
gate [10]. The water sorptivity and water adsorption rate of
worn away by rubbing and friction’’. Abrasion is observed on pave-
concrete containing shredded PET-bottle as fine aggregate are low-
ments, floors, or other surfaces on which friction forces occur.
er than those of a reference concrete [14]. The incorporation of
Abrasion of hydraulic concrete structures is caused by the sedi-
modified waste expanded polystyrene aggregate in concrete mixes
ment carried by water. Hardly any research has been published
improves their frost resistance [22]. The addition of PA improves
on this property for concrete made with plastic aggregate.
the carbonation resistance and increases the shrinkage of the
resulting mortar mix [10]. However, the presence of PA up to
30% substitution levels has no influence on the drying shrinkage 2. Experimental
of cement mortar [14]. Concrete containing shredded waste PET-
2.1. Materials
aggregate has a lower dead weight, which reduces the earthquake
risk of a building, and it can help the design of an earthquake resis- CEM II A-L42.5 R type cement was used in this work. Three size ranges of cal-
tant building [10]. careous type natural coarse aggregates and two size ranges of quartzite type natural
However, the available information on the use of plastic waste fine aggregates were used throughout. The plastic waste used as aggregate was col-
lected from a plastic recycling plant in Portalegre, Portugal. The plant mainly recy-
as aggregate in concrete is not always adequate. Information is still
cles polythene terephthalate (PET) bottle waste. Of the three types of plastic waste
lacking on several properties of concrete containing PA. The shape aggregate (PET-aggregate) used, two were shredded and separated fractions of sim-
and size of the aggregate have a significant influence on both fresh ilar types of PET bottles and one was a heat-treated product of the same PET bottles.
and hardened concrete properties. No thorough study is available No further crushing/shredding of the plastic aggregates was done in the laboratory.
on the effect of the shape of plastic aggregate on the properties The PET-aggregate types used in this investigation are listed in Table 1. The shred-
ded fractions are flaky with particles in two size ranges, fine (called PF) and coarse
of resulting concrete. Here, three types of recycled polyethylene
(called PC). The heat-treated pellet-shaped product is spherical/cylindrical and is
terephthalate (PET) aggregate (PET-aggregate) were studied to called PP. The photographs of the PET-aggregates are presented in Fig. 1.
understand whether:
2.2. Experimental methods
1. The use of two particle-size fractions of the same type of PET-
aggregate helps to show the effect of PET-aggregate size on The properties of the natural aggregate (NA) and PET-aggregates were evalu-
the behaviour of fresh and hardened concrete properties. ated according to the procedure defined in various standard test methods (Table 2).
The experimental results of the various aggregate properties are presented in Ta-
2. The use of flaky and pellet-shaped PET-aggregates helps to
ble 3. The Los-Angeles abrasion test was also done for PC aggregate because of their
show the effect of shape of PET-aggregate on the behaviour of size; however, no weight loss was observed.
fresh and hardened concrete properties. The pellet-shaped The concrete mixes were all prepared using the same method, developed by the
PET-aggregate was prepared by heat-treatment of shredded research team, which implies the use of exactly the same aggregates grading curve
waste PET-bottle. and concrete composition in terms of cement content, coarse and fine aggregate
quantities and slump value. The cause of the differences between the various mixes
would thus be reduced solely to the coarse aggregates’ nature. The Faury aggregate
Abrasion resistance is one of the least known durability proper- grading curve (Fig. 2) was used in this research. The same figure gives the grading
ties of hardened concrete, but it is one of the most important for size distribution of all natural aggregates (NA). All types of aggregate were therefore

Table 3
Properties of various types of aggregate.

Property Results
Coarse NA Fine NA PC PF PP
Apparent density (kg/m3) 2670 2612 1340 1340 1360
Dry density (kg/m3) 2627 2602 1330 1320 1360
SSD basis (kg/m3) 2606 2643 1350 1350 1360
Water absorption (% dry basis, 24 h) 0.63 0.20 0.18 0.25 0.10
Bulk density (kg/m3) 1418 1441 351 555 827
Shape index (%) 11.5 – – – –
Weight loss (%) in Los-Angeles abrasion test 27.2 – nd – –

SSD: saturated surface dry; nd: not detected.

N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244 239

Table 4
Concrete mixes composition.

Concrete mixes Cement (kg/m3) Water (kg/m3) Natural aggregate (kg/m3) Plastic aggregate (kg/m3)
Coarse Fine PC PF PP
Ref 350 185.5 996.4 802.7 – – –
PC5 350 213.5 920.4 788.4 45.9 – –
PC10 350 227.5 844.5 774.1 91.7 – –
PC15 350 259.0 768.5 759.8 137.5 – –
PF5 350 199.5 996.4 713.3 – 45.9 –
PF10 350 210.0 996.4 624.0 – 91.7 –
PF15 350 224 996.4 534.6 – 137.5 –
PP5 350 185.5 996.4 713.3 – – 45.9
PP10 350 182 996.4 624.0 – – 91.7
PP15 350 182 996.4 534.6 – – 137.5

The abrasion resistance was determined according to the DIN 52108 standard
Table 5 method using a Bohme apparatus. For this, 100  100  100 mm3 cubic specimens
Experimental methods used to determine various fresh were initially cast by the normal procedure adopted in this study. After an initial
and hardened concrete properties. 56 days of curing in a wet chamber, 71  71  50 mm3 test specimens were pre-
pared by sawing the cubic specimens. The samples were returned to the wet cham-
Targeted properties Method
ber for 91 days; then they were dried in a ventilated oven at 110 ± 5 °C until
Fresh concrete constant mass. Before determining the abrasion behaviour, the thickness of the
Slump test NP EN 12350-2 specimens was measured at nine locations. The weight of the specimens was also
Density NP EN 12350-6 measured using a digital scale. Then a given quantity of abrasive powder was evenly
Hardened concrete spread on the clean grinding path of the disc of the abrasion-testing device. Each
Compressive strength NP EN 12390-3 specimen was then fixed to a holding device under a calibrated weight; after 4 cy-
Splitting tensile strength NP EN 12390-6 cles of a pre-determined number of rotations, the dimensions of the specimen were
Flexural strength NP EN 12390-5 measured at nine locations, as was its weight. The results presented here are the
Modulus of elasticity LNEC E397 average of three specimens.
Abrasion resistance DIN 52108

3. Results and discussion

3.1. Fresh concrete properties

separated into different size fractions by mechanical sieving. Four different classes
of concrete mixes containing NA and three types of PET-aggregate were prepared.
For each class of concrete mixes containing PET-aggregate, three sub-classes were The properties of the various fresh concrete mixes are presented
prepared by replacing 5%, 10% and 15% in volume of NA by an equal volume of each in Table 6. The water to cement ratio (W/C) of the reference con-
type of PET-aggregate. Strict compliance with the aggregate grading curve meant
crete used in this study is 0.53. This enabled the slump of the con-
that it was not possible to substitute more than 15% of NA with PET-aggregate. A
total of nine concrete mixes containing three types of PET-aggregate, plus one ref-
crete mix to be within the required range (125 ± 10 mm), constant
erence concrete (exclusively with NA) mix, were prepared in this work. The compo- for every mix. The W/C value of the concrete mixes containing PET-
sitions of the concrete mixtures are shown in Table 4. aggregate varies depending on the size and shape of plastic aggre-
The concrete mixes were prepared and cast using standard procedures. Slump gates. For pellet-shaped PET-aggregate (PP), the ratio is slightly
and density were determined immediately after preparation of the mixes. They
lower than for the reference concrete within the same slump
were then poured into predefined moulds and their air content was reduced by
using a vibrator. The specimens were kept in moulds at ambient temperature for range; the W/C value decreases with increasing content of PP in
about 24 h to harden before being demoulded and transferred to a humidity cham- the concrete mix. This indicates that the incorporation of PP
ber for curing for specific time-periods. The 150  150  150 mm3 cubic specimens slightly increases the slump value of concrete. However, an in-
were prepared for compressive strength determination; cylindrical specimens
crease in the W/C ratio is needed to reach a similar slump range
150 mm long and 100 mm in diameter were prepared for splitting tensile strength
and modulus of elasticity determination; and 150  150  600 mm3 prismatic
for concrete mixes prepared using the other fine and coarse PET-
specimens were prepared for flexural strength determination. aggregates (PF and PC, respectively), which means that slump de-
The test methods used to determine the fresh and hardened state concrete creases with the addition of PF and PC. Increasing the incorporation
properties are presented in Table 5. The compressive strength of hardened concrete of these types of PET-aggregate monotonically lowers the slump
specimens was determined after 7, 28 and 90 days of curing using a compression
value. A higher W/C ratio is necessary in the concrete mix contain-
testing device with a maximum load of 3000 kN, model CSRG 5502, from FOR-
M + TEST SEIDNER, Germany. Splitting tensile strength, modulus of elasticity and ing PC than in the one with the same PF content.
flexural strength were determined after 28 days of curing. The tensile splitting The lower W/C value of concrete mixes containing PP, and
strength of concrete specimens was determined using the same device used for hence higher slump value, is due to its nearly spherical nature
compressive strength. Before this was done the modulus of elasticity of concrete
and smooth surface texture. On the other hand, the decreasing
specimens was determined according to LNEC-397 standard. The flexural strength
of the concrete beams was determined as described in standard EN 12390-5 (two
slump value due to the addition of PF and PC is attributed to these
point bending method) using the same testing device. The results given for all PET-aggregates having sharper edges than NA. Moreover, com-
mechanical parameters are the average of three specimens. pared with NA, the PF and PC are angular and non-uniform in

Table 6
Fresh concrete properties.

Properties Ref PC PF PP
5 10 15 5 10 15 5 10 15
W/C (%) 0.53 0.61 0.65 0.74 0.57 0.60 0.64 0.53 0.52 0.52
Slump (mm) 127 120 120 – 122 122 120 122 122 132
Density (kg/m3) 2387 2326 2277 2233 2336 2290 2243 2347 2297 2254
240 N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244

35 mixes containing 15% PF and those with various contents of PC

Compressive Strength (MPa)

are segregated, possibly due to the higher W/C ratio. For PC, an-
other explanation may be its flaky nature. Remarkably, fresh con-
25 crete mixes containing PC at all substitution levels and the one
20 with 15% PF reach a stage where they look like the reference con-
crete mix with the required slump range. Even though they exhibit
a very low slump value. The density of fresh concrete declines as
10 the content of PET-aggregate increases. This trend is self-explana-
5 tory since there is a clear gap between the density of natural aggre-
PP 7-day gate and that of PET-aggregate (Table 6).
0 5 10 15
Amount of NA substituted by plastic aggregate (%) 3.2. Hardened concrete properties

50 3.2.1. Mechanical properties

Compressive Strength (MPa)

The compressive strength trend of concrete with increasing

40 incorporation ratios of PET-aggregates to replace natural aggre-
gates (NA) at different ages is presented in Fig. 3. Results show that,
30 regardless of the type of PET-aggregate and curing time, the com-
pressive strength decreases as the content of PET-aggregate in-
creases, which agrees with previous studies [1,26]. Unlike NA,
PET-aggregate cannot interact with cement paste and therefore
the interfacial transition zone (ITZ) in concrete containing PET-
10 PF
aggregate is weaker than that in the reference concrete, which low-
PP 28-day ers the resulting compressive strength. The 28-day compressive
0 5 10 15 strength of concrete containing PP at all substitution levels and
Amount of NA substituted by plastic aggregate (%) of concrete containing 5% of PF is more than 75% of the compres-
sive strength of reference concrete. But the figures for concrete
50 with 10% and 15% PF are respectively 71% and 59%, and for con-
Compresiive Strength (MPa)

crete with 5%, 10% and 15% PC they are respectively 73%, 52%
40 and 35%.
The higher strength of concrete containing PP is attributed to its
30 water to cement (W/C) ratio, which is lower than that of concrete
with the other two types of PET-aggregate. Despite the higher W/C
of concrete with 5% PF than that of concrete with 5% PP, the com-
pressive strength of the first is almost the same as that of the sec-
ond. This is due to the differences in the shape of these two types of
10 PF
PET-aggregate. The surfaces of PF are rough whereas those of PP
PP 91-day
are very smooth. Binding between PF and cement paste is therefore
0 5 10 15 better than binding between PP and cement paste. Another possi-
Amount of NA substituted by plastic aggregate (%) ble factor is the different particle size distribution of these two
types of PET-aggregate. The particle size distribution of PF almost
Fig. 3. Compressive strength of concrete versus incorporation of PET-aggregate to matches that of natural fine aggregate, while almost all the parti-
replace NA at different ages. cles of PP fall within a narrow size range, i.e. they are almost iden-
tical in size. So replacing NA with PP changes the grading curve,
4 which possibly hinders any potential improvement of the com-
Splitting tensile strength (MPa)

pressive strength of concrete with PP attributable to the advantage

of a lower W/C ratio.
To understand the influence of the replacement percentage of
NA with plastic aggregate on the 28-day tensile splitting strength
2 behaviour of concrete, the experimental results are presented in
Fig. 4. As with compressive strength, the results show a substantial
1 PC reduction in performance, for any substitution pattern, as the per-
PF centage of incorporated PET-aggregate increases. A similar expla-
PP nation to that for the loss of compressive strength of concrete
0 due to the incorporation of PET-aggregate can be provided for
0 5 10 15
the behaviour of tensile strength. The maximum and minimum
Amount of NA replaced by plastic aggregate (%)
reductions in tensile strength are observed in concrete with PC
Fig. 4. Influence of PET-aggregate incorporation on the 28-day tensile splitting and PP, respectively. The worst performance observed for PC is
strength of concrete. attributed to the high W/C ratios of these mixes.
The tensile splitting strength of concrete is strongly influenced
nature. The PC, in particular, needs a higher water content to reach by the characteristics of the interfacial transition zone (ITZ) [31].
the same slump range as NA, because of its flaky nature. The smooth surface of the plastic particles and the free water at
Visually, the concrete mixes with various percentages of PP and the surface of plastic aggregate can cause a weaker bonding
those with 5% and 10% of PF are almost the same as the control between these particles and the cement paste. As shown in Fig. 5
concrete mix. No segregation was observed in these mixes even (for PP), after reaching the ultimate strength, most of the PP in
though they were made without any admixture. But concrete the concrete matrix do not fail, but they are debonded from the
N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244 241

Fig. 5. Concrete specimens containing PP after failure in the tensile splitting strength test.

50 several factors that may be responsible for the observed behaviour

of the modulus of elasticity. According to Jones and Facaroau [32],
Modulus of elasticity (GPa)

40 the type of aggregate influences the modulus of elasticity, since the

deformation produced in concrete is partly related to the elastic
deformation of the aggregate. Since the modulus of elasticity of
PET is considerably lower than that of natural aggregates, higher
PET-aggregate contents lower the resulting concrete’s modulus of
elasticity. The W/C ratio also has a great influence on the modulus
PC of elasticity performance of concrete. According to Porrero et al.
10 [33], the W/C ratio has an important influence on the final proper-
PP ties because of the generation of porosity in concrete. This porosity
0 can be inversely related to the modulus of elasticity. The incorpo-
0 5 10 15
ration of PC and PF increases the W/C ratio value of concrete.
Amount of NA substituted by plastic aggregate (%)
Therefore, concretes containing PC and PF are more porous than
Fig. 6. Influence of various types of PET-aggregate on the modulus of elasticity of other types of concrete and naturally have a lower modulus of elas-
concrete. ticity. The influence of content and type of PET-aggregate on the
28-day flexural strength of resulting concrete is presented in
Fig. 7. It is concluded that as the amount of any type of PET-aggre-
5 gate in concrete increases the flexural strength decreases. The
explanation for the loss of compressive and tensile strengths and
Flexural strength (MPa)

4 the lowering of the modulus of elasticity of concrete due to the

incorporation of PET-aggregate applies to the flexural behaviour
of concrete too. Fig. 8 shows the reference concrete and the con-
crete with 15% PC specimens after the flexural strength test. The
reference specimen splits into two pieces after failure. This behav-
2 iour is also observed for concrete containing PP. On the other hand,
PC the concrete beams containing PC and PF did not split into two
1 PF after failure. The PC and PF particles bridged the crack and pre-
PP vented brittle failure of the specimen during the test. Cracking in
0 a concrete beam containing PC is shown in Fig. 9. The pieces of
0 5 10 15 PC tentatively bridge the surfaces of the crack that formed through
Amount replaced by plastic (%) flexural failure. Therefore, the post-crack strength is improved by
PC and PF aggregates due to their shape and size.
Fig. 7. Influence of various types of PET-aggregate on the flexural strength of
3.2.2. Abrasion behaviour
The abrasion behaviour of concrete specimens (depth of wear
cement paste, which is additional evidence of the poorer bonding and weight loss) containing various types and contents of PET-
between the PP and the cement paste. aggregate, and the reference concrete, are shown in Fig. 10. It can
The influence of the PET-aggregate type and content on the be concluded that the incorporation of PET-aggregate can improve
28-day modulus of elasticity of concrete is presented in Fig. 6, the abrasion resistance of concrete. The abrasion behaviour of con-
which shows that, regardless of the type of substitution, increasing crete with PP improves as the plastic content increases, whereas
ratios of PET-aggregate lower the resulting modulus of elasticity. for PF and PC the best result is observed for 10% replacement of NA.
According to the American Manual of Reinforced Concrete (1952), The influence of plastic aggregate on the abrasion resistance of
the 28-day modulus of elasticity of conventional concrete should concrete has not yet been reported. Some studies do, however,
range from 13.7 GPa to 41.2 GPa. The modulus of elasticity values state that adding polypropylene (PP) fibre significantly improves
observed for all the concretes are within this range. the concrete’s abrasion resistance [34–36]. The abrasion resistance
Concrete mixes with lower compressive strength are known to of concrete containing modified PP fibres is improved, mostly due
have lower modulus of elasticity values. As stated earlier, there are to a crack-arresting effect and crack-thinning effect of PP fibres, a
242 N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244

Fig. 8. Cracked concrete specimens after the flexural strength test: (A) reference; (B) PC.

Ref 10%
5% 15%

Depth of wear (mm)


(A) Depth of wear
Ref 10%

40 5% 15%
Weight loss (g)




Fig. 9. Cracking in a concrete beam containing PC after flexural failure.
(B) Weight loss

bridge effect of PP fibres on cracks and a diversion effect of PP Fig. 10. Depth of wear and weight loss of concrete with various percentages of
replacement of NA with PET-aggregate after the abrasion resistance test.
fibres on separated paste blocks [34]. The larger the content of
PP fibres, the stronger the effects. In addition, friction work is con-
sumed when PP fibres are pulled out from concrete [34]. Concrete plastic, particularly PC, can improve the relative flexural strength
with high compressive strength normally has high abrasion resis- of concrete as it can arrest, bypass and bridge the cracks produced
tance [37–40]. A small improvement in concrete’s abrasion resis- by mechanical means. As these properties are also responsible for
tance is observed if its compressive strength exceeds a critical the improvement of abrasion resistance [34], the abrasion resis-
value, around 40 MPa [41]. Compression testing measures the bulk tance of concrete containing PET-aggregate also improves. The
strength of concrete, while an abrasion test measures the quality of increasing content of PET-aggregate (PP at all substitution levels
the surface. As aggregate has a marked effect on the surface prop- and for PC and PF up to the 10% level) further improves the abra-
erties of concrete, the quality and type of aggregate have a signif- sion resistance because the improvement caused by its addition
icant effect on the abrasion resistance. The paste/aggregate bond is more pronounced than the loss due to the compressive strength
and aggregate hardness also affect abrasion resistance [41]. evolution.
In this case the improvement of abrasion resistance observed The highest abrasion resistance is observed for concrete with
because of the incorporation of PET-aggregate is probably attribut- 15% PP. Concrete containing PP at this substitution level is proba-
able to the characteristics of PET-aggregate. Plastic has high tough- bly very resistant, thanks to the specific properties of PP such as
ness and good abrasion behaviour [6]. The results also show that better toughness and abrasion behaviour than NA and to the
N. Saikia, J. de Brito / Construction and Building Materials 52 (2014) 236–244 243

6 4. Differences in the size, shape and texture of PET-aggregates

affect the water to cement ratio as well as the slump of fresh
Depth of wear (mm)

concrete mixes, which ultimately change the mechanical

4 behaviour.
5. The elongated and flaky particles of PC and PF bridge the
3 two split concrete pieces and therefore prevent concrete
2 from breaking apart after failure during determination of
tensile splitting and flexural strength. The concrete speci-
1 mens with PP and NA, however, split into two pieces after
0 10 20 30 40 50 6. The abrasion resistance of the concrete mixes with the
Compressive strength (MPa) various types of PET-aggregate is better than that of the
reference concrete. The abrasion behaviour of concrete
Fig. 11. Cubic compressive strength versus depth of wear.
containing PP improves as its content increases. But for
the PF and PC, the best results are observed for 10% replace-
ment of NA.
reasonably high compressive strength, which protects concrete 7. The behaviour of the abrasion resistance of concrete arising
from wearing. This trend would probably change for higher from the incorporation of various types and contents of PET-
replacement ratios. aggregate suggests that this property depends on the com-
For concrete containing PC and PF, a 10% incorporation gives the pressive strength of concrete as well as on the properties
best results, even though the compressive strength of these mixes of plastics.
is substantially lower than that of the reference concrete. Again,
the abrasion resistance of concrete with 10% PC is better than that The results obtained from this study indicate that the workabil-
of concrete with 10% PF even though the compressive strength of ity of a concrete mix is greatly affected by the size and the shape of
the PC concrete is significantly lower than that of the PF concrete. PET-aggregate. If the mentioned properties of PET-aggregate and
This is probably due to the different shape of the aggregates. Thus, the workability behaviour are both properly optimised, it is possi-
when the surface of concrete containing PF is abraded the fine ble to make a high quality concrete containing PET waste aggregate
aggregate particles are plucked out of the paste matrix, resulting that can be used for certain civil engineering applications where
in substantial abrasion wear. On the other hand, parts of the PC lightweight concrete is called for, for paving slabs, and for hydrau-
are strongly bonded to the paste, which can protect it against lic structures. However, further research is necessary to see if this
abrasion. type of concrete can be used in this diverse field of applications.
The relationship between compressive strength and depth of In addition the re-use of plastics, including PET waste, must be
wear for the different concretes is presented in Fig. 11. It can be analysed considering the long-term behaviour and the possible
concluded that there is a certain compressive strength level for damage to the environment with respect to specific applications
concrete containing PET-aggregate after which the abrasion resis- and service conditions. Some plastics contain toxic organic and
tance deteriorates. However, it is not possible to determine the inorganic chemical compounds and therefore the leaching of these
range of compressive strength for each type of concrete from these toxins is another key aspect to be addressed when evaluating the
limited data. possible degree of pollution. Silva et al. [42], for example, reported
that the prolonged curing of PET fibre in simulated cement pore-
4. Conclusions fluid could initiate the alkaline hydrolysis of PET, and form some
organic compounds. Therefore, the fate of these chemicals in con-
The evaluation of various fresh and hardened properties indi- crete specimens and the environment must be studied properly.
cates that almost all of them depend on the size and shape of the
PET-aggregate. The following conclusions can be drawn from this
research work: Acknowledgements

1. The nearly spherical and smooth-surface textured PET- The authors are grateful to Leonel Silva, Diogo Serpa, Pedro
aggregate (PP) lowers the W/C ratio and this increases the Pereira, Luís Evangelista and Fernando Rodrigues for their assis-
slump value of the concrete mix. The angular and non-uni- tance with the experimental work. The financial assistance of the
form PET-aggregates (fine PF and coarse PC) with sharper ICIST Research Institute, IST, Technical University of Lisbon and
edges increase the water requirement of concrete and con- of the FCT (Foundation for Science and Technology), Portugal, is
versely lower the slump value of concrete mixes. The parti- also gratefully acknowledged.
cle size distribution of these PET-aggregates further
increases the water requirement of concrete mixes.
2. There is a reduction in the density of fresh concrete as the References
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