Construction and demolition (C&D) materials include debris generated during a renovation, demolition or construction of civil engineering structures. The EPA estimated that in 2015, nearly 550 million tons of C&D debris overall was generated in the United States alone — more than twice the amount of municipal solid waste generated that same year. Some of these C&D materials can be reused in new projects, minimizing the need to mine and process brand new materials. The process of recycling C&D materials can reduce significant waste, construction expenses, environmental impact, and impact on landfill space.

What are C&D Materials?

There are 3 different types of C&D debris generated during construction, demolition, or renovation of structures:

  1. Inert or non-hazardous waste
  2. Hazardous waste regulated by the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  3. Items containing hazardous components that may be regulated in some states

Most debris is non-hazardous and therefore not regulated by the EPA. Examples of non-hazardous waste include:

  • Concrete, cinder blocks, asphalt, plaster, slate, masonry, and drywall
  • Lumber, plywood, wood scraps, pallets, and wood laminates
  • Steel, pipes, rebar, copper, brass, flashing, and other forms of steel
  • Plumbing fixtures and electrical wiring
  • Doors, windows, siding, and brick
  • Non-asbestos insulation

Hazardous waste typically requires specific treatment and disposal according to U.S. state or federal laws. Hazardous waste might include:

  • Paints, thinners, resins, adhesives, varnish, solvents, and containers used for these materials
  • Treated wood such as utility poles or decks
  • Asbestos-containing items
  • Products containing mercury or lead

How are C&D Materials Recycled in the U.S.?

Once recyclable materials are pinpointed and separated by type, materials may be sent to a special recovery facility for recycling. Depending on the structure, some materials might be saved before demolition or renovation begins. For example, a construction recycling company in Las Vegas was able to reuse and recycle several materials in the MGM Grand during its renovation a few years ago. Several thousand toilets were donated to charity, and fixtures were crushed to be reused as road paving material. In other cases, a recycling company might take easily removable items like fixtures, doors, and appliances to donate or use in a different project.

When demolition begins, materials can be reused in a variety of ways. Crushed gypsum from drywall can be used to manufacture new drywall, cement, or soil amendment. Asphalt and rubble are often recycled back into asphalt at the work site or at an asphalt plant. In some states, concrete blocks can be reused as soil stabilization along waterways, rather than going to a landfill.

Wood is perhaps one of the most useful materials, as it can be recycled in many different ways. Wood scraps can stay onsite and be reused as bridging, filler, or spacers on construction projects. It can also be chipped and used for landscape mulch or compost. Clean, uncontaminated lumber can also be turned into furniture or returned to vendors.  

Other Benefits of Recycling C&D Materials

In addition to reducing waste, recycling C&D materials save energy costs. The Construction and Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) examined the energy savings from C&D recycling in the U.S. in 2014. According to their calculations, energy saved equaled an estimated 682 million BTU, taking into consideration factors like combustion emissions, transportation, and extraction. That amount is equivalent to 117 million barrels of oil, 10.25 million passenger vehicles driven for 1 year, and 5.12 million homes energy use for 1 year.

Not only is recycling C&D materials good for the environment, landfills, and energy costs, but it stimulates the economy, too. Recovering materials requires more employees than it does to dispose of them at a landfill. Local companies in the U.S. can process tons of materials with the right equipment, as seen with TAZ Recycling in Illinois. Tens of thousands of jobs are produced by the C&D recycling industry. Furthermore, recyclable materials bring in revenue from sales, as we see in storefronts like ReStore. Reusable materials that are donated benefit nonprofit organizations as well as the community receiving them.

Improving C&D Recycling in the U.S.

General Kinematics is committed to providing solutions for recycling systems of many different materials, including C&D. Not only are we proven leaders in the C&D vibratory sorting equipment industry, but our very own Director of Resource Recovery is on the board of the CDRA. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your C&D recycling solutions!

 

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