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Construction Recycling

Construction recycling is something that every person associated with the construction and demolition industries should become knowledgeable about. Unused or discarded materials as well as debris from demolition activities are creating a serious problem for the US. Traditionally these wastes were sent to a regular municipal solid waste landfill. Since these items took up a considerable amount of space in the landfills and were essentially inert, the Environmental Protection Agency began streamlining regulations to permit specialized Construction & Demolition Landfills for these materials. In addition, a full scale education campaign was launched to educate workers. However, this only moved the waste to a different location. More recently, construction recycling has become more widespread as a way to solve the “landfill space” problems. In addition, waste generator may be able to save money or even make a little cash from their discarded materials.

Metals, particularly copper, are common items that are sent for recycling from construction jobs. These can be cost effectively recycled and sometimes actually generate some income for the waste generator. The second most common item to recycle is concrete. Many companies offer services that grind large concrete chunks into aggregate that can be used as base for grading projects. In addition, construction companies can re-purpose their own waste on their projects for a greatly reduced cost than purchasing new aggregate. Recently, it has become fashionable to use reclaimed lumber and brick in new construction as a way to add charm. There are many specialized companies that will perform the removal of the brick and lumber as well as haul it away for free.

There are some things construction and demolition companies need to do before planning to recycle their materials. First, they must know what materials they will be recycling. Next, equipment operations and workers need to segregate the materials as the recycling facility will not accept a mixed waste stream. An example of a mixed waste stream is concrete with rebar. The reason the facility won’t accept this waste is because their grinding machines are unable to process the rebar. Separate piles and/or roll-off containers can be used to segregate wastes intended for different disposal facilities. Clearly labeling the piles by standing signs and/or adhesive stickers on roll-off containers is important so that workers do not inadvertently mix the waste. However, if these procedures are followed companies can help the environment and save some money on their project.


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