Concrete remains the world’s most heavily-used building material. And while it’s not going anywhere, it’s a dirty and expensive game to be involved in.

Demand for concrete has tripled over the past 20 years, while its surrounding economy has become one of the most significant contributors to carbon dioxide emissions. 

Often confused, cement is actually an ingredient of concrete. And as companies shift towards a net-zero, concrete is getting a hard look over.

Prices for a metric tonne of carbon dioxide have reached €100 in Europe, and the price of landfill from construction and demolition waste (CDW) is affecting the entire building industry – exceeding €100 per metric ton. This means the total value at risk from carbon dioxide in landfill could reach approximately €210 billion by 2050.

With the demand to remain steady, building and construction heavyweights need to act now to find alternative options to decrease concrete costs and carbon dioxide emissions.

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

Bacteria and Concrete: A match made in heaven?

Believe it or not, bacteria could hold the answer to cleaning up the world’s concrete industry. 

At least, some companies in the US are betting-big that it does.

Responsible for 8% of global CO2, cement manufacturing is due for a rethink.

As one of the world’s most common and critical materials, concrete’s future is solid, but it could also be bright thanks to innovations in how it’s made.

Currently, companies in the US are testing a type of ‘brewed’ concrete that uses photosynthesising microbes to do the work that once required heat.

And it’s this heat that generates CO2.

So far, the tests are promising, and while this clean concrete is costly to produce, subsidies for cleaner building materials could make all the difference to profitability.

With much faster curing times and limiting CO2 to around 1/10th that regular concrete, the new material could also be provided in a ready mix solution, only requiring water to activate.

In one variant, the bacteria can activate itself to fill cracks that form after the cement mixture is set.

A game changer.

If all this comes together in a scalable solution, it will improve the face of the concrete industry.

(To learn more, you can check out two companies at the cutting edge, Prometheus Materiels and Biomason.)

So is clean concrete for real?

The Future Of Concrete

Many new-age concrete solutions, from fuels, secondary cementitious materials, precast production, and various new technologies and production processes — have a sustainable impact but with limitations.

Circular concrete technologies include:

  • Alternative fuels 
  • Carbon curing 
  • Recarbonation 
  • And carbon capture and storage (CCS)

These technologies could become comprehensive solutions for decarbonising the built environment. 

In fact, new research has found that they could help to decarbonise roughly 80 per cent of total cement and concrete emissions by 2050.

Leveraging the recirculation of carbon dioxide, materials and minerals, €110 billion of annual net value gain can be added to the built environment by 2050, reducing almost half of the stated value at risk. 


Concrete is an essential component of our built environments.

It’s also a polluting and expensive area, but new innovations could be about to change that.

Concrete is on the cusp of a cleanup, from bacterial concrete manufacturing to a recirculation carbon economy within the building and construction industries.

Companies in America are trialling a type of “brewed” concrete mix, which can expand to fill cracks automatically.

While alternative fuels alongside carbon capture and storage, or CCS, could help to cut the sector’s emissions by up to 80 per cent.

Where concrete as a material ends up is still uncertain; however, with the help of new technology and innovative businesses, this tried-and-true product could have a brighter future still.

Dust suppression is an enduring issue in the world of mining and energy.

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