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Are there environmental benefits of GFRP rebar over steel rebar?

The short answer is yes, there are many environmental benefits of Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) rebar compared to steel rebar. And as the construction industry comes under increasing scrutiny for its emissions and waste, it’s essential that we seek sustainable solutions. That’s why Reon Products are proud to offer MST bar as an environmentally friendly alternative to steel and ultimately preserve our natural environment.

Let’s take a closer look at the environmental comparison between GFRP and steel.

The environmental effects of steel production

Globally, approximately 1,800 million tonnes of steel are produced every year, creating a detrimental environmental impact. Steel production uses more energy and emits more carbon dioxide (CO2) than most other industrial activities and is solely responsible for almost 8% of global emissions.

Approximately half of that steel is used in the construction industry, with a significant 44% of it being used for reinforcement. Which means that 1.5% of global carbon emissions is caused by steel rebar.

Why is steel rebar so environmentally unfriendly?

Of the over 2,000 million tons of iron ore mined every year, approximately 98% of it is used to make steel. Not only is the mining of iron ore highly energy intensive, but it also damages natural landscapes and causes air and water pollution which leads to acid drainage that can continue for thousands of years after mining has stopped.

The problem with steel rebar corrosion

The deterioration of steel reinforced concrete due to corrosion (“spalling”) can lead to untimely structural deterioration. It’s estimated that the cost of corrosion-related maintenance of infrastructure in Australia is between $8 to $10 billion per year. These maintenance costs and the waste associated with demolition and replacement of damaged structures creates even further strain on the environment.

Environmental benefits of GFRP rebar VS steel rebar

The production of GFRP rebar like MST bar produces far fewer emissions compared to steel. Some studies show that GFRP rebar create 43% less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and use 50% less energy consumption.1

Although silica does require a temporary disturbance of the immediate area where it’s mined, it usually has limited environmental impact and produces far less CO2 emissions. Further environmental benefits of GFRP shows that it’s possible to conserve the limited natural resources of fresh water, river sand and crushed rocks in the production of concrete.2 Using GFRP rebar like MST bar allows the use of seawater, sea sand and sea aggregates instead, which means a lower cement content is required. Plus there’s less waste at the end of the structure’s life as it can be recycled into new seawater concrete.

Why GFRP rebar has a longer lifespan than steel

Unforeseen cracking in concrete can expose steel reinforcing to corrosion, allowing the concrete and structure to rapidly deteriorate in what’s termed ‘corrosion-induced concrete spalling’. Infrastructure built using reinforced concrete is designed to have a 100-year lifespan. In buildings, that’s reduced to only 50 years. Unfortunately, many concrete structures often start to deteriorate much sooner, and in some high-risk environments might only survive for 10 – 20 years.

As GFRP is non-corrosive, its use eliminates the risk of corrosion-induced spalling. That means that over the lifetime of a structure, the need for maintenance and repairs is greatly reduced. And ultimately, it results in less waste.

GFRP rebar and ecological transportation

Transportation as a whole is responsible for approximately 23% of total global CO2 emissions3 and construction road freight represents approximately 12% of the total freight volume4. Therefore, any improvements in reducing transportation requirements have the potential to effect great change.

As steel weighs on average 7,850 kg/m3, its weight limits the volume of reinforcement that can be carried by vehicles. In comparison, MST bars weigh only one quarter of the weight of steel. This means the volume of reinforcement that can be carried by a single truck can be substantially more than with steel, potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of freight kilometres per project.

Plus moving MST bars on site becomes far more manageable for crews than heavy steel, in some cases negating the need for on-site moving equipment.

As technology advances and companies incorporate clean energy into the production of GFRP and other steel alternatives, we’re likely to see even further environmental benefits of GFRP. At Reon Products, we’re enthusiastic about doing our bit to make the world a better place to be.

Contact us today to find out how you can make the change to GFRP.


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