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Construction & Demolition Waste: 14 Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

We’re well into 2019, and the construction boom continues. We’re building more houses, more shops, more restaurants, and more infrastructure every day. But there’s something else we’re building too.

A giant pile of waste.

Because construction and demolition (C&D) materials are wide-ranging — wood, concrete, brick and beyond — it’s difficult to curb the buildup. And while not every piece of debris can be recycled, much of it should be.

It’s estimated that C&D materials take up over 4,300 acres at a depth of 50 feet, resulting in over 3 billion square yards of landfill each year. That isn’t just bad for the environment. All that waste is incredibly difficult for builders to manage efficiently and in the most affordable way.

It’s time to make a change. Keep reading to learn more about C&D waste and how you can better manage your waste.

Examples of Construction & Demolition Waste

C&D materials are wide ranging depending on the project and can consist of any or all of the following:

  •      Bricks and masonry
  •      Concrete
  •      Wood
  •      Metal, including piping
  •      Plaster and drywall
  •      Glass and windows
  •      Debris from large projects (e.g., asphalt, rubble, tile, etc.)
  •      Landscape waste

The Powerful Impact of Construction & Demolition Recycling

  •      Helps conserve finite resources
  •      Potential to create economic impact with reprocessed/salvaged materials
  •      Prevents increased use of landfills
  •      May reduce freight charges
  •      Maximizes the lifespan of materials
  •      Using recycled materials, like concrete and gravel, reduces costs
  •      Directly linked to providing new employment and job training opportunities

Construction & Demolition Facts

Fact 1: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 230 million to 530 million tons of C&D are produced nationwide each year in the United States.

Fact 2: In just one year, C&D debris accounted for more than twice the amount of generated municipal solid waste in the U.S.  

Fact 3: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control estimates that more than 34% of all waste disposed of in the state in 2017 was C&D debris.

Fact 4:  More than 90% of C&D debris comes from demolition projects, while new construction accounts for less than 10%.

Fact 5: Concrete accounted for 23.1 million tons of waste during construction and a total of 358.7 million tons of demolition debris in 2015.

Fact 6: The National Asphalt Pavement Association estimates that recycling asphalt saves the American taxpayer more than $2.5 billion per year.

Fact 7: It pays to recycle, literally. It’s projected that 28,000 US jobs will be a direct result of the C&D Recycling Industry.

Fact 8: Recycling 538 million tons of C&D waste saves 4,300 acres of landfill space, according to The Construction & Demolition Recycling Association.

Fact 9: A 2016 report by the EPA showed that recycling C&D materials created 230,000 jobs.

Fact 10: It’s not just the debris materials that cause landfill and environmental concerns. Buildings in the U.S. are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions. [RH2]

Fact 11: In a study done by the Northeast Recycling Council on the state of construction & demolition recycling efforts, of 49 states and DC, 28% have a C&D material disposal ban or recycle requirement.

Fact 12: In 2015, green design projects in a commercial setting generated 1.14 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.

Fact 13: The Federal Highway Agency says that it’s now possible to recycle 90 to 100% of reclaimed asphalt pavement.

Fact 14: Investing in LEED certification pays off. Now, developers are choosing to build better buildings using the LEED process because it immediately impacts a building’s performance and bottom line.

What You Can Do

Many construction managers don’t know where to start when it comes to recycling their C&D waste, but doing so is incredibly valuable. Landfill fees are continuing to climb, and consumers are more focused than ever on sustainability. Choosing not to recycle could cost more than you think.

There’s a better way to handle C&D waste than by simply sending it to a landfill. Here are just a few tips on where you can begin:

  •      Separate your materials in different containers to increase potential salvaging. Wood, concrete, masonry, asphalt, and masonry can all be recycled.
  •      Recognize the potential to cut costs through valuable commodities like steel, aluminumcopper, and brass.
  •      Discover tax breaks and attract new customers through LEED certification and recognition.
  •      Donate old materials to nonprofit organizations.

Learn more about how to conduct a waste audit and create a customized C&D strategy for your business.

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