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Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62

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Construction and Building Materials

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

The effect of using polyethylene terephthalate particles on physical and

strength-related properties of concrete; a laboratory evaluation
Amir Mahyar Azhdarpour a,⇑, Mohammad Reza Nikoudel b, Milad Taheri c
Geological Survey of Iran
Department of Engineering Geology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran
Department of Geology, Faculty of Sciences, Bu Ali Sina University, Hamadan, Iran

h i g h l i g h t s

 Adding PET to mortar can influence the physical structure and strength of concrete.
 By using PET, the weight of produced concrete reduces.
 An increase at PET ratio and curing age makes samples more deformable before failure.
 The speed of sound in concrete decreases along with the increase of PET ratio in it.
 Using PET in concrete will significantly reduce environmental pollution.

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

Article history: The present study was an attempt to investigate the effects of adding plastic waste particles on the engi-
Received 12 May 2015 neering properties of concrete. To this end, a mix concrete design was adopted in which pre-defined
Received in revised form 23 December 2015 weight-based amounts of the concrete fine aggregates were replaced by equivalent waste fragments.
Accepted 30 January 2016
At all the mixtures, the amount of the coarse aggregate (gravel) and the water–cement ratio remained
constant. The results of laboratory tests showed that the added plastic fragments changed both physical
and strength-related properties of newly produced concretes. More specifically, physical properties (e.g.
density and ultra sound velocity) gradually decreased as the presence of plastic fragment ratios increased.
Solid waste
On the other hand, compressive, tensile, and flexural strength of samples rose, when 5–10% of the con-
Environment crete fine aggregates were replaced by the same percentage of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) frag-
PET ments. The results also indicated that substitutions greater than 10% cause dramatic decline in all
Strength strength-related parameters of the concretes. It is therefore argued that replacement of fine particles with
PET fragments may positively affect the strength-related values of the concrete samples provided that as
long as the substation rate is under 10%.
Ó 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction concrete properties, while others may have negative effects [20].
Additionally, changes in mix design may strengthen or weaken
Engineering properties of concrete can change by adding differ- engineering properties of concrete. Considering the impact of addi-
ent types of materials or adopting proper mix designs. The deter- tive materials, an interesting line of research has investigated the
mining issue in this regard is the interaction between cement effect of waste on concrete properties (see: [33]). Additive materi-
and concrete aggregates, on the one hand, and added materials, als like resin [7], fiber/rubber [6,12,41,19,42,3]; and also see: [31],
on the other. The ratio of added materials to concrete is also cru- slag [28,30], plastics [8,33], etc. are mixed with constituents of
cial, with numerous studies indicating the influence of these mate- concrete to reinforce its engineering properties. Plastic materials
rials on concrete’s engineering properties [24,2,35,21,8,5]. Various are one of the most abundantly employed substances in commer-
materials may be added to concrete with the aim of changing its cial and industrial products (see: [33]). They have been used alone
engineering properties. Some of these materials will improve or in combination with other materials, like slag, not only to
change concrete properties, but also to decrease environmental
risks [45]. There are also other types of non-synthetic material
⇑ Corresponding author.
utilized to strengthen concrete products, i.e. coal combustion
E-mail address: amazhdarpour@gmail.com (A.M. Azhdarpour).

0950-0618/Ó 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
56 A.M. Azhdarpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62

by-products, limestone powder waste and different forms of fly gates in a concrete mix design, if a proper mix design is found and
ashes [32,34,36,39,22]. corresponding laboratory simulations are done prior to actual field
One particular area that researchers have been is the influence utilizations.
of adding industrial wastewater (instead of fresh water) on con-
crete properties [15,46]. In the research performed by Ismail and 2. Materials and methods
Al-Hashmie [15], wastewater has been added to the concrete at
various ratios; resulting in slight to moderate increase in compres- 2.1. Samples preparation
sive strength and hardness values of concrete and decrease of its
Aggregate materials used in this study consisted of gravel, sand, and PET. Sam-
flow rate [15]. Thus, as another environmental pollutant, industrial ples of these materials are shown in Fig. 1. The mineral aggregates consisted of nat-
wastewater can also be used for concrete production. ural rock-fragments with maximum diameter of 11.2 mm, which were sampled
Different researchers made attempts to find out whether plastic from a river bed in the northwest of Tehran, Iran (Fig. 1). These fragments were
bottles or waste that are converted to fiber would have any effect angular to almost rounded with different shapes. Most of these fragments were
made of tuff. The rest were either carbonate or igneous rocks. For concrete produc-
on concrete properties [17,20]. The results demonstrated that fiber
tion, the aggregates were used in granulated form, as the range of diameters was
affects the concrete structure and reduces compressive strength defined for them (Fig. 1). Aggregates were categorized into two different classes;
and elasticity modulus. At the same time, it decreases concrete coarse fragments whose particle diameters were greater than 4.9 mm and fine frag-
shrinkage and cracking. In fact, the influence of fiber on concrete ments with diameters smaller than 4.9 mm. Adopting two different gradations,
plastic fragments were prepared from ground polyethylene terephthalate bottles.
is comparable with that of reinforcement bar [17]. Plastic wastes
In the first gradation, fragment’s diameter size was 2–4.9 mm (Pc) and in the second
often have less weight per unit volume than concrete aggregates. gradation, fragments were finer, with their diameter size ranging from 0.05 to
Therefore, if they replace concrete aggregates, the unit weight of 2 mm (Pf) (Fig. 1). Results of the sieve analysis tests, for all concrete’s component
concrete and materials produced out of it will decrease. Because (i.e. aggregates and PET particles), have been shown in Fig. 2.
of their light weight, such materials are highly resistant to earth- To prepare the samples, different ratios of the concrete fine aggregates (5%, 10%,
15%, 20%, 25%, and 30%) were replaced with PET fragments. The water-cement ratio
quakes and will significantly reduce the number of casualties once
of 1:2 was selected. In all samples, the amount of the coarse aggregates (gravel) and
they are demolished and turned into debris [18,43,16,4,38,11,29]. cement were constant. However, there was variations in the percentage of the fine
The polyethylene terephthalate polymer has some special phys- aggregates, some of which were replaced with PET. The plastic fragments were used
ical and chemical properties such as high pressure tolerance, in both 2–4.9 mm (Pc) and 0.05–2 mm (Pf) size ranges, and replaced Sc and Sf sized
aggregates, respectively. Before being added to the mortar, both Pc and Pf particles
chemical interaction resistance, light weight, high flexibility etc.
were washed up by Tehran’s tap water, graded into fine and coarse sizes (by using
[23]. It is therefore widely used for different industrial purposes wet sieving method) and finally dried up for two days in an open air with direct
([26,17,25,42] and also see: [33]). After initial use, these bottle sunlight exposure. The ratios of used plastic and natural materials are listed in
are taken to landfills or recycling sites as waste. Plastics are very Table 1. To produce the concrete specimens, the natural aggregates were saturated;
resistant to decomposition and remain in the environment for tens they were then given some time to lose their unabsorbed water content. After a
short while, the surfaces of the aggregates were almost dry, but they were still
or even hundreds of years. This long-lasting durability of plastics in
internally saturated. In this stage, the mixing process started. In all the concrete
the environment has become one of the environmental risks in the production processes, no lubricants were applied.
modern industrial society [33,8,25]. It may be claimed that the use
of plastic waste as concrete aggregate is not economically justifi- 2.2. Laboratory tests
able; however, given that vast quantities of plastic waste are annu-
ally produced and this process increases physical pollution, To conduct unconfined compressive strength, modulus of elasticity, fresh and
dry density measurement, and ultra sound velocity tests, the specimens were pre-
especially in the form of burning waste, it seems that it is econom-
pared in cylindrical form. Then, the cylindrical concrete specimens, aged 3, 14, and
ically justified to exploit this material in another way. Several 28 days, were tested for the above mentioned experiments. Beam and disc-shaped
research projects have been conducted to detect the effects of samples were also made for flexural and Brazilian tests, and these experiments
replacing concrete’s natural aggregates with various percentages were subsequently carried out on the samples aging 3, 14, and 28 days. Cylindrical
of PET particles (with different sizes and shapes) specimens were also used to measure dry density.
Ultra sound wave velocity tests were performed by PUNDIT PC 1012 which
[26,23,10,17,37,13]. In the majority of these studies, sand was
determines ultra sound speed with an accuracy of 0.1 ls (micro second). For this
the most common aggregate replaced by PET particles. The purpose, cylindrical specimens were applied (see Fig. 3a).
researcher was particularly interested in studying civil engineering Unconfined compressive strength test was accomplished on cylindrical speci-
issues, ranging from the workability of mortar [26,23,10] to mens, whose diameters and lengths were 150 mm and 300 mm, respectively,
flammability of final concrete products [37]. Accordingly, while (Fig. 3b), and were 3, 14, and 28 days old. Following ASTM C39 standard, the test
was conducted by the use of an automatic loading machine with a maximum load
Sahmaran et al. [27] and Turkmen [40] tried to find a way to com- capacity of 1500 KN. The modulus of elasticity was obtained from the results of
pensate the declined values of mechanical strength of polymer unconfined compressive strength test. Flexural strength test was performed by
concretes, Ge et al. [13] and Albano et al. [1] made attempts to pro- single-point method, according to ASTM C293 (samples’ dimensions were 450,
duce a more light weight and sound proof concrete by using differ- 130 and 150 mm for their length, width and height, respectively). The California
bearing ratio test was used to load on the specimens (Fig. 3c). The Brazilian test
ent types of synthetic substances in the mortar.
was carried out on disc-shaped samples by a non-automatic machine with a max-
Waste materials like PET may have negative impacts on con- imum load capacity of 1000 KN, according to ASTM D3967 (Fig. 3d). The diameter
crete’s mechanical properties; however, since their employment and thickness (length) of the Brazilian test samples were 100 and 50 mm, respec-
in the production of polymer concretes is regarded as an environ- tively. The detailed information of test values measured for samples with different
mentally friendly action, their application is still highly recom- curing ages are represented in Table 2.

mended. Considering the fact that the volume of plastic wastes

are growing in an alarming rate on the global scale, any suggestion 3. Results and discussion
to reduce these substances from the environment may be warmly
welcomed in future. The results of fresh and dry density measurements showed that
In the present study, the PET particles, a by-product of PET adding plastic fragments to concrete mixture decreased both fresh
shredder machines, was used to improve the mechanical proper- and dry densities of concrete. The maximum loss of density was
ties of concrete. Therefore, by applying the results of this research equal to 9% and occurred in the samples which contained 30% of
to the real world constructional practices, not only is the amount of plastic fragments (Fig. 4a). On the other hand, an increase at con-
these long lasting by-products reduced, but also the engineering crete curing age augmented the value of the dry density of the con-
behavior of the made concretes are strengthened. It has been pro- crete (Fig. 4b). The decline in density can contribute to the
ven that these particles could satisfactorily replace the fine aggre- production of lightweight concrete. If this concrete is used in dif-
A.M. Azhdarpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62 57

Fig. 1. Samples of materials and waste bottles used in the mix design; G (gravel), Sc (coarse sediment), Sf (fine sediment), Pc (coarse plastic particles) and Pf (fine plastic

Fig. 2. Sieve analysis test results.

Table 1
The ratios of the plastic and natural material used.

Mix Components Gravel (Kg) Sand (Kg) PET (Kg) Cement Total weight of
design Type Sc Sf Pc Pf (Kg) solid components
name PET sub. % (Kg)
P0 0 25.20 18.90 6.30 0 0 10.08 60.48
P5 5 25.20 18.59 5.36 0.32 0.95 10.08 60.48
P10 10 25.20 18.27 4.41 0.63 1.89 10.08 60.48
P15 15 25.20 17.96 3.46 0.95 2.48 10.08 60.48
P20 20 25.20 17.64 2.25 1.26 3.78 10.08 60.48
P25 25 25.20 17.01 1.58 1.57 4.72 10.08 60.48
P30 30 25.20 16.28 0.63 1.89 5.67 10.08 60.48
Density (g/cm3) 2.72 2.71 2.76 1.38 1.38 3.08 ---
1 3 1
Weight ratios ≅ = = ---
5 1 2
Weight of each component C W
for producing 1 ton of P10 ---
mortar (Kg) 385 279 67 10 29 154 77
58 A.M. Azhdarpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62

Fig. 3. (a) The test of speed of ultra sound transmission in cylindrical specimens, (b) failure in samples cured for 14 days under uniaxial compressive test, with different PET
contents (c) the samples, after flexural strength testing, and the failure mode of them, (d) the disc-shaped samples at the Brazilian test.

ferent parts of the structures, it might reduce damages resulting More precisely, by replacing 5% and 10% of the concrete aggregates
from the collapse of structures during a sudden shrinkage or natu- with plastic fragments, the compressive strengths of produced
ral stress resulting from an earthquake. concrete were respectively 39% and 7.6% higher than normal that
As the amount of aggregate replaced with PET increased, the of normal concrete. The replacement of more than 10% of aggre-
registered speed of ultra sound in concrete declined. Such a behav- gate, however, decreased concrete’s strength properties. Such
ior can be attributed to differences in the speed of ultra sound behavior is probably due to the presence of plastic fragments at
pulses in plastic fragments and concrete aggregates. In addition, the starting points of failure. At these points (at the failure sur-
since the plastic fragments had a sheet-shaped structure, they faces), in dealing with flexible plastic fragments, a portion of the
acted as the refractive boundary for ultra sound pulses (Fig. 4c). shear stress is converted to tensile stress which is consumed to
As shown in Fig. 4c, there is a direct relation between concrete’s overcome the tensile strength of the plastic fragments. Because
curing age and the ultra sound velocity; however, the trends show of their elongated and sheet-shaped structure, plastic fragments
that the most considerable increase in ultra sound velocity occurs tolerate a part of applied stress before their separation from other
in the first two weeks of curing. This might be attributed to either materials. In contrast, concrete aggregates are brittle and almost
the higher rate of pozzolanic reactions or the action of hydration spherically shaped, which make them have less strength against
processes [23] during this time. The results of unconfined com- applied stress or be separated from the surrounding cement before
pressive strength test on concrete samples (shown in Fig. 4d) the failure.
demonstrate that substituting plastic fragments for concrete In contrast, increasing the presence of plastic fragments at the
aggregates (putting plastic fragments in the aggregate and cement) points of failure had a declining effect on the compressive strength
changes the physical structure and compressive strength of con- of concrete. The cohesion between mixed materials tends to
crete. These changes were a function of the percentage of aggre- decrease due to the flat shaped and smooth surface of the plastic
gates superseded by plastic fragments. In the low percentages of fragments. On the other hand, pore spaces on the aggregates sur-
aggregate substitution, compressive strength of concrete boosted. faces provided the absorption condition of water and cement.
A.M. Azhdarpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62 59

Table 2
detailed information of tests’ numbers, values and standard deviations.
Test type Compressive Tensile strength Flexural strength Ultra sound
Curing age strength (MPa) (MPa) (MPa) Velocity (m/s)
PET Std. Std. Std. Std.
Average Average Average Average
replacement dev. dev. dev. dev.
0% 19.0 1.0 2.2 0.28 3.0 0.14 4189 2.83

5% 21.0 1.0 3.5 1.13 3.5 0.64 4115 35.36

10% 17.0 1.0 2.3 0.28 2.9 0.07 4000 45.25

3 day 15% 14.0 1.0 1,7 0.14 1.9 0.14 3621 26.87

20% 13.0 1.0 1.6 0.14 1.8 0.14 3589 31.11

25% 12.0 1.0 1.5 0.14 1.2 0.14 3315 22.63

30% 9.0 1.0 1.0 0.28 1.0 0.17 3118 33.49

0% 21.0 1.0 2.3 0.28 4.0 0.28 4415 21.21

5% 32.0 1.0 2.9 0.14 4.9 0.28 4420 7.07

10% 31.0 1.0 2.8 0.00 4.8 0.42 4100 2.83

14 day 15% 27.0 1.0 2.6 0.14 4.1 0.28 3809 19.80

20% 23.0 2.0 2.1 0.42 3.9 0.14 3651 11.31

25% 18.0 1.7 2.0 0.14 2.8 0.28 3449 14.14

30% 11.0 1.7 1.4 0.42 1.9 0.14 3300 19.80

0% 35.0 1.0 2.5 0.35 4.4 0.28 4450 42.43

5% 51.0 2.0 3.1 0.28 6.1 0.28 4219 2.83

10% 38.0 1.0 3.3 0.28 4.9 0.14 4090 9.90

28th day 15% 31.0 2.6 2.9 0.14 4.8 0.14 3830 56.57

20% 29.0 1.0 2.8 0.14 4.3 0.14 3692 11.31

25% 22.0 1.7 2.2 0.42 4.1 0.14 3593 5.66

30% 19.0 1.0 1.6 0.28 3.0 0.28 3449 39.60

Therefore, cement hydration occurred on these surfaces, a phe- strength of 2.4 GPa and 60 MPa, respectively (after [23]). The
nomenon which cause clogging of the mortar components (gravel slight increase in concrete’s flexural strength may be attributed
and sand). On the contrary, the absorption of water and cement did to the considerable tensile strength of pet particles which were
not take place on the surfaces of plastic fragments. This could then present at the starting point of failure. Accordingly, the flexural
be considered as a positive aspect of using PET particles in strength of concrete decreased with increasing the amount of
strengthening the final concrete products. PET in concrete. At low PET ratios, plastic fragments were situ-
As the plastic fragments were more flexible than aggregates, the ated at the starting points of failure and locked both sides of
substitution of aggregates with PET made concrete more deform- these points to each other, an issue that enhanced the strength
able and declined its elasticity modulus; hence, the produced sam- of concrete. On the other hand, in this study, the flexural strength
ples had more deformation before failure. This phenomenon can be of concrete went down as the amount of PET in concrete
observed in Fig. 4e. Moreover, given that the sheet-shaped frag- increased. Nevertheless, in the case of higher values of PET ratio,
ments of plastic tended to rotate and be located in the direction the strength of concrete declined owing to the accumulation of
perpendicular to the applied stress, they made concrete more these fragments next to each other and a reduction of cohesion
deformable and diminished its elasticity modulus. The modulus between cement and fragments. It should be noted that concrete
of elasticity is also a function of concrete age. Based on Fig. 4e, age also affects the flexural strength of concrete (Fig. 4g).
the modulus of elasticity’s value had a tendency to grow in the The results of tensile strength test proved that adding plastic
course of time. fragments (5% and 10% ratios of the concrete aggregates) to mix-
The stress–strain curves determined from compression tests ture led to the rise of the tensile strength. Nonetheless, using
for the produced samples are plotted in Fig. 4f. These samples higher values of PET reduced tensile strength of concrete (see
showed different behaviors, depending on the plastic fragments Fig. 4h). Since the tensile strength of the plastic fragments was
ratio. Plastic-free samples often failed explosively; however, higher than that of other concrete components, adding them (up
increasing the PET ratio made them have more deformation to 10%) to mixture enhanced the tensile strength of concrete. It
before failure. For example, at the aggregate replacement ratio should be noted that since the PET cannot absorb water, cement
of 30%, concrete showed a behavior like creep (Fig. 4f). The hydration does not occur on their surfaces. Therefore, replacing
results of flexural strength test indicated that when PET was more aggregates with PET results in the separation of plastic frag-
added instead of concrete aggregates, the flexural strength of ments and other mortar component, thus reducing the tensile
concrete could rise. This increase is a function of PET ratios strength of concrete. Additionally, as shown in Fig. 4h, increasing
(see Fig. 4g). PET has a flexural modulus of elasticity and a tensile concrete curing age augmented tensile strength.
60 A.M. Azhdarpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62

Fig. 4. The effects of substituting fine aggregate with PET particles on sample’s (a) fresh density, (b) dry density, (c) ultra sound velocity, (d) compressive strength, (e) elastic
modulus, (f) stress–strain state, (g) flexural strength and (h) tensile strength.

Based on the findings of this research, the effect of substituted first class, with 0–5% of substitution, all the triple strength values
PET particles on the triple strength values (i.e. compressive, Flexu- considerably increased. This conclusion may contradict the results
ral and tensile strengths) could be divided into three main classes. reported by Choi et al. [8,9] and Hannawi et al. [14], while it does
These classes are defined in the light of the amount of PET particles represent the same data as some other researchers do [10,23]. The
substituting the sand aggregate: 0–5%, 5–10% and 10–30%. In the main source of discrepancies among the results of various studies
A.M. Azhdarpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 109 (2016) 55–62 61

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