Customer story

A Hardox® steel core makes it possible to recycle cement at Smart Circular Products

A Hardox® 500 steel core makes it possible to recycle cement at Smart Circular Products

With a core made of Hardox® 500 steel, the Smart Liberator has the power to change the world. The world-unique construction from the Dutch company Smart Circular Products can upgrade demolition piles of concrete to Freesand®, Freegravel®, Freefiller® and Freement®.

"All the cement contained in concrete can be recycled thanks to our equipment," says Youri Rutte, CEO of Rutte Groep, which owns Smart Circular Products. “On a global basis, it can result in thousands of tonnes of reduced carbon dioxide emissions from cement production!”

The secret behind the Smart Liberator lies at its core, made of Hardox® 500 steel. The core is where the demolition concrete rubble is atomized to such a degree that all important virgin materials can be separated.

“In many parts of the world there is a shortage of, for example, sand and gravel,” says Youri Rutte. “Material must be transported long distances from gravel ridges and quarries. Both production and freight entail greenhouse gas emissions.”


2.2 billion tonnes of CO2

But it is the cement industry that accounts for most of the carbon dioxide emissions when it comes to concrete. Most ordinary cement consists of limestone and clay, which are heated up to 1,450°C and then ground to a fine powder. It is mixed with, for example, sand and gravel for concrete, mortar and similar products. In total, the cement industry is the source of more than 2.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases annually. This corresponds to about 8% of global emissions and is more than three times as much as, for example, emissions from aviation.

Smart Circular Products has been working with the recycling of various kinds since the company started.

“I am the third generation of Rutte,” notes Youri Rutte. “When my grandfather started the company in the 1950s, the question of recycling and reuse of concrete was relevant.”

Cement-based molded structures can have a long life, but when they are no longer needed, there will be problems. So far, crushed concrete has had little value. The material has mainly been used as fillers under roads, etc.

“A few years ago, we came into contact with a process that could increase the value of old concrete through an entirely new technology,” explains Youri Rutte. “This is the central part of the Smart Liberator.”

"I am absolutely convinced that using Hardox 500 has helped to make everything work so well."

Youri Rutte, CEO of Rutte Groep

Recovers everything in the concrete

Simply put, it is about atomizing concrete much more than is possible in a conventional crushing plant.

“It is actually impossible to separate sand, gravel and cement just by crushing the concrete,” says Youri Rutte. “Smart Liberator does not break the concrete, but rather pulls apart the materials in it. Or, as the name Liberator says, it liberates all substances from each other.”

After the process, the sand and gravel remain, which even works better in concrete than virgin material.

“After being incorporated in concrete, the surface has an etched character that clearly improves adhesion,” says Youri Rutte.


All cement is recycled

“A significant point, however, is that about 50% of the cement is not hydrated (not reacted with water) and can replace new cement without any modifications. The other 50% is used as a filler, which replaces primary fillers for a secondary alternative. A filler improves the quality of the grain structure and therefore the quality of the concrete itself,’’ says Youri Rutte.

The first Smart Liberator model has already been in operation for more than three years. The unit is compact and can fit into a normal sized container.

“And the next model has also been developed and in use for about six months,” says Youri Rutte. “The principle is the same, but it is clear that we are fine-tuning the details. It is part of the company's culture to always strive to upgrade our recycling products. Here, it is obvious that the Smart Liberator gives demolition rubble a higher value than they previously had.

Close cooperation on Hardox® steel

When it comes to material selection and the key details of manufacturing in the Smart Liberator, Rutte Groep collaborates with the Hardox® Wearparts center Zaandam, the Dutch company Geha Laverman.

“When we started working with the Smart Liberator, we contacted Bert Meij at Geha Laverman, who for a long time has been one of our most important suppliers,” says Youri Rutte. “He visited us and immediately saw that we would benefit greatly from using Hardox 500 steel in the central parts of the design. Today, I am absolutely convinced that using Hardox 500 has helped to make everything work so well.”

The next generation of the Smart Liberator was also developed in close collaboration with Geha Laverman. As a Hardox® Wearparts center, the company has special expertise both in Hardox® wear plate and in the manufacture of durable steel products.


Long story together

Smart Liberator also emphasizes the importance of both SSAB and Geha Laverman sharing Rutte Group's view of sustainable social development.

“We have a long history together,” Youri Rutte confirms. “Equipment for recycling requires good steel and with Hardox we gain both efficiency and longevity. Today, we also use SSAB's steel grades for some of the new products we have developed to process the raw materials from Smart Liberator, for example.”

Recycled cement is packaged and sold under the Freement® brand, but Rutte Groep also has its own concrete station and delivers finished Freement®-based concrete with its own trucks.

Otherwise, a large part of the transport to and from the company takes place using electric powered boats, fueled by a 19,000 m2 solar cell facility that covers all roofs at Rutte Group's industrial properties in Zaandam, north of Amsterdam.

All the water that the company needs consists of rainwater that is collected on the company's land and stored in underground reservoirs.

“Our solar cells actually provide so much energy that we can deliver some surplus to the local grid,” says Youri Rutte.

The next step is to certify the recycled materials from old concrete. A start has been made here and is supported by Rijkswaterstaat, the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management.

“The sand and gravel components have already received approval. And we are absolutely convinced that Freement meets all possible requirements, but the process takes time. When it's finished, we are ready to deliver the Smart Liberator worldwide,” Youri Rutte says. “The need is enormous!”

About Smart Circular Products

  • Smart Circular Products is located in Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam, and is part of the Rutte Groep. The company's facilities are centrally located on the North Sea Canal, an ideal base for transporting material by electric boats to the entire Amsterdam region.
  • Smart Circular Products is the world leader in recycling technology in several areas. In addition to concrete recycling through Smart Liberator, the company has manufactured approximately 30,000 UWCS (underground waste collection systems) located in Amsterdam and several other cities in the Netherlands.
  • The company focuses on sustainable development and a green future for both current and future generations.
  • Innovation lies in the company's DNA. This is evident in both purposeful use of modern separation technology and the company's strategy.


SSAB steel used by Smart Circular Products



About Geha Laverman BV

  • Originally two companies, Geha and Laverman, but today the resources have been brought under one roof.
  • The company is the world's largest Hardox® Wearparts center and a valued partner for the recycling industry, engineering companies and entrepreneurs.
  • Deep knowledge and long experience have helped Geha Laverman build strong relationships with their customers.
  • More than 20 technologies, specializing in, among other things, wear parts, are invaluable sources for customers.
  • Geha Laverman has the resources both to deliver from stock and to prepare details that delivered ready for assembly.


About Hardox® Wearparts centers

  • There are more than 500 Hardox® Wearparts centers in over 90 countries, and the network is closely linked to SSAB.
  • The goal is for customers to quickly get help choosing the right wear parts and services for high productivity and low maintenance costs.
  • Hardox® Wearparts members represent the world's largest knowledge base on wear. The experiences of other centers and SSAB's wear specialists come to practical use in customers' equipment and installations.
  • The centers place high demands on staff competence and guarantees the quality, performance and safety of the center's parts and services.

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