what to do with old concrete bags

What To Do With Old Concrete Bags (Top 10 Creative Ideas)

Construction companies, handymen, and many DIY enthusiasts have one question in common: “What can I do with old concrete bags?” As some manufacturers shift from paper bags to plastic ones that generally take 20 to 30 years to degrade, you don’t want them to end up in landfills.

Empty Concrete Bag Uses:

  1. Use them to store debris
  2. Landscaping and weed prevention
  3. Prevent environmental and job site contamination
  4. Weed prevention for patios and sidewalks
  5. Use them for plaster art
  6. Turn them into art
  7. Add drainage for pots
  8. Fire Starters
  9. Garage or Floor Protection
  10. Recycle them

There are two ways to use old concrete bags. One is to reuse the empty bags in creative ways, which we will explain further in this guide. Another is to use the old concrete mix itself.

So, first, let’s see why concrete mix becomes unusable after sometime, plus, when and how you can use the old concrete.

Why Do Concrete Bags Become Unusable After Sometime?

Simply put, we mix the raw material of concrete – cement and aggregate with water – and concrete forms. Then, we apply this mix to different construction and DIY projects.

Now, here’s the thing: This cement stored in bags doesn’t last forever. It has a shelf life of 3 months and up to 1 year, depending on how well you store it.

The cement starts expiring mainly because of its reaction to the atmosphere’s moisture.

After moisture reacts with cement, it hardens and forms lumps. The strength of concrete made using old and expired cement reduces significantly compared to fresh cement. So, it is not used in major construction projects. Learn more about the shelf life of concrete mix.

If it’s kept in dry and air-tight conditions, its expiration can be slowed.

But remember, even in the most dry conditions, the moisture in the air will gradually start reacting with the cement compounds. As a result, it will start deteriorating slowly. So, properly storing the concrete bags is essential to prolong their shelf life.

Check out whether or not you can store concrete bags outside for further insights.

When Can You Use Old Concrete

  • If the cement is less than 3-6 months old
  • If the cement is flowing properly like a powder
  • There are no big lumps, and the moisture content is less than 5%

If the cement powder fulfills all the above criteria, only then, it is worth using. But still only for non-constructional purposes.

For instance, for fixing poles, landscaping, planters, DIY and decor projects, to fill dips and holes, and driveways.

But for major construction projects, avoid using old concrete bags. The quality of construction work done using old concrete won’t be up to the mark. You will often have to do repair and maintenance jobs after that construction. Furthermore, if the cement is more damaged, then it won’t cure or harden properly after you apply it.

How To Use Old Concrete

  1. Take the hardened, old concrete bag and put it on a platform.
  2. Then, depending on how much hardening has happened, hammer the bag to break those big lumps of cement inside.
  3. Do these for all other old concrete bags until the powdered cement is collected in one place.
  4. Now, mix it thoroughly with water and start using it for your non-constructional DIY projects (but remember that concrete also needs other ingredients like sand and gravel to provide enough structural support.)

To learn more about applying concrete and achieving a shiny surface, head over to this guide: 5 easy steps to make concrete smooth and shiny.

10 Creative Ways To Use Empty Concrete Bags

#1. Use Them to Store Debris

When you are working on a construction project, you will likely create plenty of debris. You can use old concrete bags to help you manage this situation. These will be very strong. So, you can fill them with debris from around your home, construction or worksite.

#2. Landscaping and Weed Prevention

If you own your own home and need to do some landscaping,, you are well aware of and annoyed by weeds coming through any landscaping areas around the home.

These empty bags can be used by laying on the ground, especially in areas like next to the house where you might be putting in a rock garden, flower garden, or planting shrubs. This step will save you much time (weeding every week) and money (not having to buy weed killer).

Another idea is to fill the bags with sand and use them to protect your house or business from flooding, especially during Springtime.

#3. Prevent Environmental Contamination

When you are working on a construction project, it’s important to reduce your environmental impact. This is especially important when you are working with lightweight materials such as sand. If you’re not careful, these can end up being blown all over the site, including valuable building materials. Old concrete bags can be a low-cost way of solving this issue.

First, you’ll want to lay some bags on the ground. This gives you a place to put the aggregates. It also makes it easy for you to clean up the site when you’re done.

You can also use tape to join a series of concrete bags together. This will form a strong covering. It will be resistant to the wind and will help protect the pile from water. It can even keep the sun off the aggregate.

#4. Weed Prevention for Patios, Sidewalks

If you want to put in a new sidewalk or patio, you can lay some empty concrete bags out on the ground first. This will help create a flatter area. The bags will reduce the amount of water that is penetrating the soil. By doing this, you will be able to stop grass and weeds coming through the sidewalk and patio cracks. This will reduce the amount of maintenance you need to do.

#5. Use Them for Plaster

If you want to get more creative, you can use them as a frame for plastering over. This is best if you have a woven-style bag. The bag will give your plaster more structural integrity. The texture will make it easier for you to apply the plaster.

#6. Turn Them Into Art

If you have empty bags, you can use them as a canvas. This is a great activity for children. Encourage them to paint on the bags. If you have a paper bag, you might want to leave it to soak in flour and water. This will make a sticky mixture, which you can use to make paper mâché.

#7. Add Drainage For Potted Plants

You can line the inside of pot plants with a concrete bag. This will help insulate the plants, keeping them warm during the colder months. For some seedings, you can put the concrete bag around them during the winter. This creates a shield from the wind, to keep them warm.

The paper bag will help catch the dirt in the pot. But make sure to leave an opening at the bottom. This will retain the dirt but allow the water to slide past and drain out.

#8. Fire Starters

A fire is a great way to keep warm during the winter months. The concrete paper bags can be great kindling for a fire. They are thicker than printer paper and newspaper, so they can burn for longer.

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of the paper is by scrunching it up. You’ll want to ensure you’re leaving enough room for oxygen to get between the layers.

Next, you can layer the smaller wood on top of the paper. Use a pyramid shape to make sure that it’s getting plenty of oxygen. When you’re ready, it’s time to light the paper concrete bag and enjoy the warmth of the fire.

#9. Garage or Floor Protection

If you have a nice garage floor or even have another area you need to protect during a messy mechanical job, the bags can be cut down the side and laid flat on the floor underneath your vehicle, for instance, when changing oil.

Nothing is worse than cleaning up spilled oil or another contaminant while changing the oil in your car or performing another messy task.

#10. Recycle The Bags

However, one of the best ways to get rid of old bags is to recycle them. The type of bag that you have will depend on the way that it needs to be recycled. If you have paper, the bags will biodegrade over time. Because of this, you should be able to separate them and put them into the recycling bin.

You can also contact local charities. Many of them will collect paper as part of a fundraiser. If you donate to them, they will be able to sell the paper for profit. This can be a good way to support local community organizations.

If you have a propylene bag, you should send it to a local recycling company. They will be able to turn it into something new. They might even pay you for the recycling.

There are a few resources that you can use to find local buyers for propylene bags.

One of the best is Plastics Market. On this site, it’s easier to search by material. Plenty of good uses can come from these products, such as electronic items, mugs, and gardening equipment.

What Are Concrete Bags Made Of?

Although concrete has been sold in paper bags for many years, the trend is to change to recyclable plastic bags to ensure good tear resistance and help keep out moisture. They are primarily made up of three components: virgin material, masterbatch, and UV coating.

The virgin material is woven polypropylene strands. Polypropylene is a substance that resists humid conditions to provide a long shelf life for concrete. It also ensures the bags can withstand rough handling when transported and piled up. Currently, this type of bag is an efficient way to store and transport concrete.

Unfortunately, polypropylene decomposes over two decades when dumped in a landfill. According to the British Plastics Federation (BPF), manufacturers now add masterbatch to polypropylene to make it more degradable, but it still takes a long time to decompose (source).

Final Thoughts

If you are working on a construction project, you will end up with lots of empty concrete bags. But this can be a good thing. There are lots of useful things you can do with these bags. They can be anything from fun art projects to insulation for plants during the winter.

If you can’t think of any uses, make sure to recycle them properly. Many charities will be pleased to receive paper donations. Hopefully, you now have plenty of ideas about using old concrete bags.

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