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Construction Waste Recycling

DEFINITION
CONSIDERATIONS
COMMERCIAL STATUS
IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES
GUIDELINES

  1. What to Recycle
  2. Materials Separation
  3. Recycling and Waste Minimization Guidelines

CSI Numbers:

Division 1 General Requirements
01710 Cleaning


DEFINITION:

Construction waste recycling is the separation and recycling of recoverable waste materials generated during construction and remodeling. Packaging, new material scraps and old materials and debris all constitute potentially recoverable materials. In renovation, appliances, masonry materials, doors and windows are recyclable.

8,000 lbs of waste are typically thrown into the landfill during the construction of a 2,000 square foot home.


CONSIDERATIONS:

Most construction waste goes into landfills, increasing the burden on landfill loading and operation. Waste from sources such as solvents or chemically treated wood can result in soil and water pollution.

Some materials can be recycled directly into the same product for re-use. Others can be reconstituted into other usable products. Unfortunately, recycling that requires reprocessing is not usually economically feasible unless a facility using recycled resources is located near the material source. Many construction waste materials that are still usable can be donated to non-profit organizations. This keeps the material out of the landfill and supports a good cause.

The most important step for recycling of construction waste is on-site separation. Initially, this will take some extra effort and training of construction personnel. Once separation habits are established, on-site separation can be done at little or no additional cost.

The initial step in a construction waste reduction strategy is good planning. Design should be based on standard sizes and materials should be ordered accurately. Additionally, using high quality materials such as engineered products reduces rejects. This approach can reduce the amount of material needing to be recycled and bolster profitability and economy for the builder and customer.

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Construction Waste Recycling Satisfactory in limited conditions Satisfactory in limited conditions Satisfactory in most conditions Satisfactory Satisfactory Satisfactory
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Satisfactory Satisfactory
Satisfactory in most conditions Satisfactory in most conditions
Satisfactory in limited conditions Satisfactory in Limited Conditions
Unsatisfactory or Difficult Unsatisfactory or Difficult


COMMERCIAL STATUS

TECHNOLOGY:

Technology is quickly developing for recycling of materials into reconstituted building materials. (See sections on reconstituted materials.) However, few new technologies are available locally. Recycling of many waste materials that can be reused requires only some additional effort and coordination with a salvage company or non-profit organization.

SUPPLIERS:

There are salvage companies and non-profit organizations in the Austin area that can recycle some of the construction waste generated on site.

COST:

There is some additional cost involved in recycling construction material waste until an established procedure is developed. Cost savings can be realized with donations to non-profit organizations that specialize in construction waste recycling resulting in tax deductions. Cost savings are also realized through the efficient design and use of materials minimizing waste. However, transportation costs and the lack of local companies using recycled resources make recycling of many materials that are not directly reusable too expensive to be feasible at the present time.


IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES

FINANCING:

Available.

No financing issues.

PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE:

The public’s wide belief in recycling gives the builder who recycles a positive image with the client.

REGULATORY:

Building codes prevent the use of used materials (i.e. reused studs) as structural members. Non-structural materials such as trim or siding are not regulated.


GUIDELINES

1.0 What to Recycle

Before recycling construction waste, identify who will accept it. This is important in designating type of waste to separate, and in making arrangements for drop-off or delivery of materials. In Austin, materials that can be recycled include:

  • Appliances and fixtures
  • Brush and Trees
  • Cardboard and Paper
  • Lumber and Plywood (in reusable form)
  • Masonry (in reusable form or as fill)
  • Metals
  • Plastics – numbered containers, bags and sheeting
  • Roofing (in reusable form)
  • Windows and Doors

2.0 Materials Separation

Containers for material recycling must be set up on site and clearly labeled. Construction personnel must be trained in material sorting policy, and bins must be monitored periodically to prevent waste mixing as a result of crews or passersby throwing trash into the bins.

Some materials will require bins or storage that protect from rain. Other bins may be locked to prevent tampering.

3.0 Recycling and Waste Minimization Guidelines

(The following information is adapted from the Environmental Building News, Nov/Dec 1992. See Resources.)

3.1 Lumber

Optimize building dimensions to correspond to standard lumber dimensions.

Modify framing details to optimize lumber use and reduce waste and inform framing contractor of your plan.

Develop detailed framing layouts to avoid waste when ordering lumber.

Store lumber on level blocking under cover to minimize warping, twisting and waste.

Set aside lumber and plywood/OSB cut-offs that can be used later as fire blocking, spacers in header construction, etc.

In remodeling, evaluate whether salvaging used lumber is possible.

Save small wood scraps to use as kindling for clients or crew members (no treated wood).

Larger pieces of leftover lumber (6′ or more in length) can be donated to Habitat for Humanity. (See Resources .)

Save clean sawdust for use in compost piles or around gardens. Avoid sawdust that might contain painted or treated wood. This should be bagged separately. Untreated bagged sawdust may be donated to Austin Community Gardens. (See Resources .)

3.2 Drywall

Order drywall in optimal dimensions to minimize cut-off waste. Drywall is available in different lengths, and designed dimensions should correspond to standard sizes.

Large drywall scraps can be set aside during hanging for use as filler pieces in areas such as closets.

Technology exists, although it is not available in Austin at this time, for recycling drywall into textured wall sprays, acoustical coatings, gypsum stucco, fire barriers, or agricultural products. Large pieces of drywall (full to half sheets) can be donated to Habitat for Humanity (see Resources ).

Reuse joint compound buckets for tool or material storage by clients or crews.

3.3 Masonry

Estimate masonry material needs carefully to avoid waste.

During construction, collect, stack and cover brick and other masonry materials to prevent soiling or loss.

Salvage usable bricks, blocks, slate shingles, tile and other masonry materials from remodeling and construction. Store for future jobs or divert to salvage operations. (See Resources .)

Check to see if your masonry supplier will accept the return of materials in good condition.

Clean concrete chunks, old brick, broken blocks, and other masonry rubble can be buried on-site during foundation back-filling.

Good quality used concrete (also known as urbanite) can also be used as brick or block for landscaping walls and foundations for small buildings.

Garden wall made from urbanite (recycled concrete)

Garden wall made from urbanite (recycled concrete), courtesy of Ray Cirino

3.4 Metals and Appliances

During remodeling, separate metal radiators, grates, piping, aluminum siding, and old appliances for salvage or recycling.

Consider a front yard sale of usable items during the construction process.

During construction, separate metals for recycling, including copper piping, wire and flashing; aluminum siding, flashing and guttering; iron and steel banding from bundles, nails and fasteners, galvanized flashing and roofing, and rebar; and lead chimney flashing. It is critical to keep lead out of landfills because it could leach into groundwater.

The Ecology Action Diversion Center at the city landfill will accept all metals and appliances.

3.5 Cardboard and Paper

Avoid excessively packaged materials and supplies. However, be sure packaging is adequate to prevent damage and waste.

Separate cardboard waste, bundle, and store in a dry place. Recycle through Ecology Action (see Resources .).

Minimize the number of blueprints and reproductions necessary during the design and construction process.

3.6 Insulation

Install left-over insulation in interior wall cavities or on top of installed attic insulation if it can not be used on another job.

3.7 Asphalt Roofing

Left over bundled shingles can be donated.

Technology exists, although it is not available in Austin at this time, to recycle asphalt roofing into road paving or patching material.

3.8 Plastic and Vinyl

Minimize waste of vinyl siding, flooring and countertop materials by ordering only quantity needed.

Trash bags and plastic sheeting can be recycled through Ecology Action (see Resources ).

3.9 Paints, Stains, Solvents and Sealants

Donate unused portions to Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They accept any quantity of white latex paint and full gallons of other paints (see Resources ).

Save unused portions for your next job.

Any other unused materials should be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. (Note that the City of Austin operates a household hazardous waste collection facility. See Resources .)

3.10 Miscellaneous

Branches and trees from brush clearing can be stored separately and chipped at the city’s landfill facility, or a chipper can be used on site to create landscaping mulch.

Old nickel cadmium batteries from portable power tools should be disposed of at a hazardous waste collection facility.

Cabinets, light fixtures, bathtubs, sinks, mortar mix, hardware, nails, screws and plumbing fittings and supplies are all accepted by Habitat for Humanity (see Resources ).