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Construction and Demolition Waste Recycling
( 6 Votes )
Written by VCC   
Monday, 22 October 2018 00:00

We have all seen them: large mounds, almost mountain like for a Midwesterner.  They are landfill sites, often covered with seagulls.  Bulldozers move back and forth ad nauseam, seemingly busy with some important task. Such landfills appear far too often in our urban landscape and have become a fixture in the modern American mind.

The 2003 EPA estimate of solid waste generated in the construction and demolition industry is 170 million tons. This is huge! Of this waste, 39% comes from residential construction and 61% from non-residential construction.  With the environment at a tipping point, this is a problem that needs to be faced.

As part of the LEED’s (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green initiative, the owner earns points towards the buildings LEED certification for recycling construction waste during building or renovation projects.  I am a LEED AP (accredited professional), so my company pays special attention to such matters. During a recent “green” school project (the Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School in Wheeling, IL), we hired a waste hauler that we used to move rubble to a facility that separated garbage from the recyclable materials.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that we actually recycled 84% of the solid waste generated by the new construction.

I thought that result was amazing!  What if all contractors recycled their waste?  What if all owners and developers required their contractors to recycle the construction waste?  We could divert the vast majority of waste from the landfills to recycling centers. There, the recycled material would eventually become part of something new and useful again.

The effects ripple out in a positive environmental domino effect. Recycling construction waste reduces demand for virgin resources and in turn reduces the environmental impact associated with extraction, processing, and transportation. Not to mention the reduction of the potential size of our already overburdened landfills.

Having seen how effective recycling was on our green project, we at Vanderwerff Construction Company made it our policy to recycle all of the construction and demolition waste for all of our current and upcoming projects.  For instance, at St Paul’s Lutheran Church Elevator project in Waukegan Illinois, where we are making it easier for elderly and disabled congregation members to utilize their church facilities, we also recycled 86% of the construction and demolition waste.

Any additional cost to accomplish this recycling “miracle” is minimal in relation to the size of any overall project, especially in urban areas like Chicago.


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