Use of Recycled Materials Behind MSE Walls

To ensure long-term integrity of MSE walls, reinforced backfills consisting predominantly of coarse-grained materials have been recommended and used. This limitation on material type can significantly increase the cost of construction on some projects because of the cost of transporting select material to the construction site when local select fill is not available. At the same time, industrial operations and construction activities create coarse-grained materials that must be disposed. Again, producers of such materials must pay transportation costs, as well as disposal fees, to discard these materials. One solution is to recycle these materials and use them as alternative reinforced backfill.

Throughout the U.S., substantial amounts of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) are being produced through reconstruction activities as well as granular industrial byproducts such as foundry sand/slag, bottom ash, and iron/steel slag. If these materials were used as reinforced backfill for MSE walls, transportation and disposal costs for these materials could be greatly reduced, translating into significant savings for state departments of transportation. Furthermore, such activities would promote sustainable construction, preserve natural resources, and reduce carbon footprint and landfill disposal in highway construction. There are reports of the use of these materials as reinforced backfill as well as research on their properties relevant to reinforced backfill requirements. Further focused research of recycled materials needs to be done to determine if their use as MSE wall reinforced backfill is considered suitable for a more sustainable and potentially economical design and develop design and construction recommendations.

The full report can be found:

MSE Wall Final Report