Recycling is on the rise, and not just at your curb, coffee shop or office cafeteria. The construction industry is getting on board, too.
Kraus-Anderson project managers Rachael Oelke, LEED AP BD+C and Ken Francois, LEED AP BD+C recently presented an update on trends in construction recycling to the Saint Paul Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA).
Construction recycling efforts target Construction and Demolition (C&D) debris, defined as waste material produced in the process of construction, renovation or demolition of structures. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, In the U.S., construction and demolition generate 170 to 200 million tons of C&D waste per year, mainly in the form of concrete, masonry, brick, wood, gypsum drywall and asphalt shingles. About 30 percent of C&D waste is recycled. Some cities have launched aggressive C&D waste recycling and reuse efforts, banning certain types of construction waste from landfills and setting goals of as much as 80 percent diversion. Even without mandates, the Earth Day generation is driving better stewardship, and more resources focused on recycling methods.
Industry-wide, demolition is the main source of C&D waste, at 53 percent. Renovation accounts for 38 percent and only about 9 percent is from new construction.
Recycling takes effort, and requires the cooperation of the many crews that work a large job site, but a well-managed program can be extremely effective. Recent major healthcare campus projects at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and at the Gundersen Health System campus each recycled 91% of their construction waste. At Amplatz, over 106 tons of drywall alone were diverted from landfill and recycled for use as animal bedding and soil amendment, Oelke reported.
C&D Transfer/Recovery stations accept four main products for recycling:
• Wood, which is recycled into biomass fuel, animal bedding, and mulch
• Metal- steel and other metal materials
During building demolition the recycling process starts on the recycling sorting line, where items are sorted and relegated to material sorting bins. Sorted materials are baled and sent to recycling.
The benefits of recycling C&D can be financial as well as environmental, Oelke and Francois pointed out.
• Reduced environmental effects of extraction, transportation and processing of raw materials;
• Reduced project costs by avoiding disposal costs, avoid purchases of new material, revenue earned from material sales or scrap, and tax credits for donations;
• Conservation of landfill space; and
• Enhanced public images for companies and organizations that reduce disposal.
What’s more, recycling C&D waste creates 8 jobs per 1,000 tons of waste, versus the 1.3 jobs per 1,000 tons created by conventional waste disposal.
However, one should also consider the potential site-specific challenges in managing a C&D recycling program, such as:
• Time- Recycling requires additional time to coordinate, manage and track; as well as more time for deconstruction and separation of materials.
• Room- The effort requires sufficient room for storage and sorting.
• Additional costs- for hauling, transportation, and labor.
Keep in mind that in some cases, the cost of recycling in terms of labor, expense, space, and even hauling may offset any benefit, Oelke cautioned.
Tenant build-outs and remodeling projects can also avail themselves of recycling. The wide range of recyclable materials and products include metal studs, glass, millwork, vinyl composite tile, ceramic tile, carpet/pad, acoustical ceiling tile, paint, wall coverings, light fixtures, insulation, duct work, concrete, structural steel, plywood, modular office systems and office furniture.
When using recycled content in building, be mindful that the percentage of recycled content in materials such as metal studs can vary greatly, and this can affect quality. Metal studs, for one example, can be comprised of anywhere from 5% to 95% recycled content, Francois noted.
Successful construction recycling requires a dedicated effort from the entire team of subcontractors, and it’s Best Practice to provide expectations of recycling goals as early as possible as the team is being assembled. Including C&D recovery plans in project specifications and contracts, and requiring contractors to submit summary forms for C&D recovery along with their payment application informs everyone up front. Building in penalties and incentives for the construction team can also be effective in achieving goals, said Oelke.
In addition, educating contractors on recovery techniques such as sorting, materials storing methods, and which materials are recoverable can eliminate contamination and increase recovery rates. The construction manager can create a materials management plan to provide crews with detailed instructions on reuse, recycling and sorting methods.
Clearly, recycling on a job site is more complex than remembering which day is pickup. However, a dedicated construction team following a well-planned and executed recycling effort can make a tremendous impact.