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C&D Insights

May 8, 2012

"C&D" wastes are generated every day around the planet—from new construction to demolition projects. While much of the C&D waste gets recycled, a significant portion still ends up in our landfills. And, markets for C&D material vary widely around the Northeast and the rest of the country.

Through its "Toward Zero Waste as a Practical Strategy in the Construction and Demolition Industry" project, NERC has worked with WasteCap Resource Solutions to provide training on C&D recycling and waste reduction. WasteCap offers construction and demolition waste management services, including planning, technical, and educational assistance.

According to WasteCap, construction and demolition debris amounts to 40% of our nation's municipal solid waste (60% MSW @ 250 million tons: 40% CD @ 170 million tons). Several of the "landfill top ten" are materials generated by construction and demolition projects. These include:

  • Untreated wood (13%)
  • Asphalt roofing shingles (6%)
  • Cardboard (4%)
  • Metals (4%)

For the average construction and demolition job, just recycling wood; cardboard; metal; and brick, concrete, and stone, can bring the recycling rate to 50%. Recycling asphalt shingles, wallboard, and other materials (depending on available markets) can bring the rate up to 75% or more.

C&D Recycling—Where to begin?

Start with a commitment from the property owner, contractor, subcontractors, and architect. Everyone needs to be "on board." Assign a point person that will act as the liaison between all parties involved. It's important that requirements for source reduction and recycling be included in all specifications and contracts. Next, develop a recycling/waste management plan. There are lots of examples of C&D waste management plans available for download on the Internet.

Include in the waste management plan the detailed material information.

  • Determine what materials will be generated in large quantities and when they will be generated at the jobsite.
  • Of those materials, what can most easily be separate on the jobsite?
  • First look for materials with existing recycling markets, then find new markets.
  • Set a waste diversion or recycling goal.
  • And, if it's a demolition or renovation job, don't forget about possible reusable items to salvage.
  • Logistics on materials movement on and off site should be addressed, along with where and when to place dumpsters.
    • Always place trash containers next to recycling dumpsters to reduce contamination.

Assign duties, starting with the job site "recycling coordinator" (usually the superintendent of the job site), who will be responsible for overall management of the plan implementation.

  • The superintendent is responsible for education—educating the job site foremen, and then the foremen educating the subcontractors.
  • It works best to have one person on the job site to be responsible for monitoring the recycling dumpsters.
  • Office personal are responsible for reporting the diverted tonnages.
  • And, according to WasteCap, everyone on site, from office workers to subcontractors must be required to recycle on the job. This shows that everyone is part of the team.
  • Include a budget with a cost analysis of recycling vs. disposal (more on this in an upcoming blog!).

Education is key!

  • At the jobsite orientation, at all management meetings, at contractor trainings, and in-person instruction.
  • Post signage on jobsite trailers and on recycling dumpsters.
    • Dumpster signage should be large, simple, and clear about the materials to place in the dumpster.
    • Include a sign at the front of the jobsite with the recycling goal and milestones in reaching the goal.
  • Enforcement, monitoring, and documentation are all components that should be included in the education plan.
  • It's important to have the recycling coordinator do onsite monitoring of dumpsters everyday.
  • Also provide incentives for everyone on the jobsite, from site superintendent to laborers, to monitor the bins for contamination. Encourage everyone to provide feedback on how to make the recycling efforts more successful.
  • Finally, promote success and appreciate everyone's contribution.

Other insights

Make the hauler your best friend. They will know the local markets and recycling opportunities.

  • Ask the hauler for insight into how best to separate materials. Ask them about containers for use on the jobsite.
  • What types of dumpsters will they provide?
  • Do they have self-dumping tippers, totes, bins, or small dumpsters available that can be used as interim containers?
  • Have the hauler check the recycling dumpsters to make sure materials are not contaminated and also to take a look in the trash dumpster to ensure that no recyclables are hauled away as trash.
  • Work with the hauler to keep dumpster signage intact.
  • Finally, work with them on proper recording and reporting of weights for your records.

NERC has a number of C&D resources available, including Asphalt Shingles Manufacturing & Waste Management in the Northeast, Gypsum Wallboard Waste Fact Sheet, and Hauler Terms and Waste Conversion Factors.

Next up – C&D reuse and materials markets

By Athena Lee Bradley

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