The new construction industry generates an average of 3.9 pounds of construction waste per square foot of a building. For a 2,000 square foot home that equals nearly 8,000 lbs of waste. For a 50,000 square foot mid-size office building, almost 100 tons of waste will be produced. If the project includes demolition, the same 50,000 square foot building will result in almost 4,000 tons of waste (155 pounds per square foot).
It’s no wonder that construction & demolition (C&D) waste is a leading contributor to our nation’s landfills, representing over 40% of their make-up. Making strides in reducing construction waste, we can conserve landfill space and reduce the need for new landfills. We can also reduce the production of greenhouse gases and other pollutants created in landfills.
Deconstruction Before Demolition
One way to reduce construction waste is to start with a “soft” tear-down of a building, called deconstruction, prior to a complete demolition. Deconstruction involves dismantling the structure in an effort to salvage construction materials for reuse. Through deconstruction, materials like windows, plumbing fixtures, ceiling and floor tiles, or large pieces of lumber are removed in tact for use in new construction or renovation.
What Can Be Recycled or Reused
The USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory estimates that almost 90% of a demolished home or office can be recycled. However, the EPA reports that less than 30% of construction waste is actually recycled or reused.
Common C&D waste products produced on a construction site that can be recycled include:
Working with an environmental recovery organization provides you a one-stop resource for your construction waste needs, including collecting your C&D waste, assessing your recycle and reuse options, performing environmentally responsible disposal of the remaining waste.
What Should Not Be Reused
Demolition of older buildings can sometimes create roadblocks in reducing construction waste, because many construction materials used in these buildings are no longer approved for new construction, including asbestos and lead paint. If you have a roll off container, you can’t simply throw all waste into it. Make sure you comply with the regulations.
Lead paint can be planed, removed and recycled at a lead smelter. The wood underneath can be reused.
Removal of asbestos is required before any deconstruction or demolition can take place. It must be handled appropriately and disposed of in landfills that are approved to accept asbestos-containing materials (ACM).