Recycle of Construction Waste
Most construction waste goes into landfills, increasing the burden on landfill loading and operation. Waste from sources such as solvents or chemically treated wood can result in soil and water pollution.
Some materials can be recycled directly into the same product for re-use. Others can be reconstituted into other usable products. Unfortunately, recycling that requires reprocessing is not usually economically feasible unless a facility using recycled resources is located near the material source. Many construction waste materials that are still usable can be donated to non-profit organizations. This keeps the material out of the landfill and supports a good cause.
The most important step for recycling of construction waste is on-site separation. Initially, this will take some extra effort and training of construction personnel. Once separation habits are established, on-site separation can be done at little or no additional cost.
The initial step in a construction waste reduction strategy is good planning. Design should be based on standard sizes and materials should be ordered accurately. Additionally, using high quality materials such as engineered products reduces rejects. This approach can reduce the amount of material needing to be recycled and bolster profitability and economy for the builder and customer.
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that 136 million tons of construction waste was generated in the United States, which accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the national solid waste stream [source: Whole Building Design Guide]. This has more of an impact than just burdening landfills -- materials that contain solvents or chemically treated wood can also cause soil and water pollution. With environmental awareness on the forefront, green demolition is popping up all over the country as an alternative to the wrecking ball, and it's called deconstruction.
Trained construction crews come in and carefully dismantle a building, harvesting everything that could feasibly be reused or recycled. These salvaged materials make it back into the marketplace rather than doing time in a landfill. This process takes longer and costs more, but it's also important to consider the nonfinancial benefits, like creating less of an impact on the Earth. And there are some cost benefits to going the green route as well. We'll talk about these in our next section.