The green movement is picking up pace, people. As an environmentalist, nothing gives me more satisfaction than to learn of the green initiatives of industries that you don’t generally consider being environment-friendly.
I mean who would have thought that the construction and demolition industry would take it upon itself to go green because honestly, when you think of construction, you think of brick and mortar and rubble and metal and hazardous chemicals. Rarely do you think recycling!
But it’s a telling remark on our society’s commitment to recycling that what was once the bastion of a select few environmental groups has now become a countrywide phenomenon. Nothing says we consider recycling our moral responsibility louder than the fact that even the construction industry wants to be a part of it.
What is construction waste?
Construction waste refers to the unwanted material that’s produced either directly or by chance during construction of a building. Much of this waste comprises materials like brick, concrete, wood, electrical wiring, nails, insulation, etc. Some of it may also be hazardous waste like lead, asbestos, and plasterboard.
Here’s a fun fact about construction waste that you probably didn’t know. Around 8000 lbs of waste is typically thrown into landfills during the construction of a 2,000sq ft home.
On a more serious note, according to the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA), more than 325 million tons of recoverable construction and demolition (C&D) materials are generated in the United States annually.
Even though not all the waste generated at a construction site is recoverable, many elements of this construction waste have the potential to be recycled and that’s exactly what organizations like the CDRA promote. That there’s a whole organization directing its efforts to this cause means the C&D industry is mighty serious about its green quotient!
Benefits of recycling construction waste
We need to change the way we look at construction debris or waste if we want to create a more sustainable future. I’m not saying it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA says it and I couldn’t agree more.
There are several considerations here. First, a lot of construction waste ends up in landfills. It shouldn’t, but it does. This not only means additional costs for the construction industry (for hauling and disposing the waste), but also additional load for our fast-filling landfills.
Like I mentioned earlier, some elements of construction waste can be hazardous and leach harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater if landfilled.
Now consider a scenario that involves recycling construction waste. The most obvious benefit is conservation of landfill space, which in turn prevents soil and water pollution. The other not so obvious benefits include:
- Conservation of resources required to produce new materials
- Job creation – the waste is not going to sort, haul and salvage itself
- Reduction in costs by using C&D materials for construction of new buildings
Isn’t this a much better outcome for the C&D waste than throwing it all away? I would think so. But even before recovery and recycling, there’s another thing that the construction industry can do to enhance its “green” image and that’s reduce the waste produced in the first place. This can only come with proper planning and using high quality construction material.
The waste that is generated should be checked for its recycling potential. For successful recycling, awareness about what can be recycled and who will accept the recyclables is important. So, you may have niche national recyclers likeSIMS Metal Management with centers from Providence, RI to Redwood City, CA that accept certain types of C&D waste or you could work with a local C&D recycler.
It’s heartening to note that the construction and demolition industry is doing its part so far as being environmentally responsible is concerned. The existence of organizations like the CDRA and the U.S. Green Building Council are evidence enough of the industry’s commitment to the cause. A lot still needs to be done, but at least we’re headed in the right direction and that’s something to be proud of.