Construction and demolition (C&D) recycling is a vertical that has been largely lacking in measurement specifics for some time now.
Measurement metrics rely on the data inputs being both accurate and up-to-date. Rubicon believes that more accurate measurement in the C&D recycling space is critical with regard to how much material is actually being recycled. In addition, more timely data should be accessible for stakeholders detailing how much is still being sent to landfills.
Before we get into the weeds on how to improve C&D recycling measurement, let’s take a step back for a moment…
What is C&D Recycling?
Construction and demolition (C&D) recycling is the diversion of any waste, debris, or other materials that are created as a result of construction and demolition activities away from landfills and toward C&D recycling facilities.
Examples of what C&D recycling and debris consist of include concrete, gypsum (drywall), wood, asphalt, shingles, metal, and more. Each commodity needs to be recycled in its own container in order to prevent cross-contamination. This ideally happens in separate containers on site, as opposed to mixed construction recycling (and demolition debris) being collected on site, with separation occurring at an off-site construction recycling facility. It is easier to sort debris and other materials before it becomes contaminated with other materials.
According to the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA), the C&D recycling vertical directly supports approximately 28,000 U.S. jobs, and 4,300 acres of land have avoided being turned into landfill thanks to the recycling of approximately 583 million tons of C&D materials at construction recycling facilities. In 2015, Recycling Today reported that C&D recycling constitutes a $7.4 billion vertical, further noting that more than 70 percent of C&D debris generated in the United States is recycled annually. With that said, the building boom has increased market size and volume since 2015, with recycling percentages not improving.
Process Transparency is Key
The ability to improve C&D recycling measurement will ultimately come down to better process transparency.
While not every piece of C&D debris can be recycled, much of it should be. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have confirmed that more than 90 percent of all C&D debris comes from demolition projects, with new construction accounting for less than 10 percent.
On its surface, this makes sense. In the same way that recycling after a natural disaster can often take a backseat to efforts involved with removing debris away from the disaster site, demolition projects often do not allow for appropriate sorting and categorizing of otherwise recyclable materials; therefore it is sometimes seen as easier to simply landfill all materials that come out of such projects.
Having company-wide (and if necessary, industry-wide) sustainability goals in place is vital to ensuring transparent processes are adhered to by all. As my colleague Chris Batterson wrote in Builder, “Some markets regulate how much waste from C&D work has to be diverted from the landfill, but other places have no regulation and no infrastructure to recycle it.” Batterson continued, “Builders who have established sustainability goals and practices try to do the right thing and divert materials. But the ones who choose not to recycle typically just throw it all in one container, and it goes to the landfill.”
As Batterson notes, when construction companies have established sustainability goals and practices in place, they are much more likely to recycle unused construction materials and demolition debris, as compared to when these processes are not laid out and institutionalized in advance.
Process transparency is key.
C&D Recycling Creates Cost Savings
With landfill fees continuing to climb, choosing not to recycle C&D debris and other materials could end up being more costly than you think.
I’ve talked a lot about the environmental benefits of C&D recycling here, but the cost benefits can be equally alluring—both for national and multinational construction companies who want to enhance margin on a large scale, and for local companies who can benefit by improving their overall value.
Construction companies almost always order flat rate open tops with minimum tonnage built into the price. Unless you go over this minimum amount, you are effectively paying for air, as you’re being charged the full price of the open top while not taking advantage of its full capacity. In addition, many companies never receive tonnage reports that detail information on how much waste is actually being disposed. The customer should be able to know how much each load weighs and be able to catalog this information for each job. This is the standard that we should demand from the industry.
You can’t fix what you can’t measure. Construction companies are continuing to work without accurate measurement toward the volume of materials that they are reducing, reusing, recycling, or sending to landfills. Being able to measure these categories means the difference between accurate reporting, which is essential for certain certifications, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), as well as dollars saved.
Consumers are focusing on environmental issues and sustainability now more than ever. Improving C&D recycling measurement in the construction and demolition vertical, and beyond, is not only a cost-win for your company, allowing you to be confident in your diversion numbers, it is the right thing to do.
Here at Rubicon®, our C&D recycling services enable customers to dispose of bulky, heavy, or large-quantity waste materials generated through construction, renovation, or demolition projects in an environmentally friendly way.
If you have any questions, or you’re interested in speaking with me about our construction and demolition waste and recycling solutions, you can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marc Spiegel is a co-founder and Head of Construction & Project Solutions at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.