Best Practices & Policy

VIDEO: Christy Cunningham-Saylor of Vertegy discusses best practice in C & D Waste Diversion

Change has been a bit slower to come to the Midwest. Other communities nationwide have had Construction & Demolition recycling programs up and running for as long as 20 years. Here are a few, from the west coast to just down the road:

  • California – Alameda County In 1990, due to an impending crunch in available landfill space, the County passed a law that by 2010 all cities had to show a 50% decrease in waste. Tipping fees were also raised, with the additional funds going to support new approaches in landfills. As a result, landfills added several new high-tech approaches to dealing with the C and D material leftovers. Single-stream C and D recycling is the norm, taking concrete, rigid plastics, porcelain, tile, lumber, metals, masonry, plastic, rock, carpet, insulation, tires and more.
  • Chicago – Allied Waste/ Laflin Avenue Recycling Plant is a 90,000 sq. ft. C and D recycling center designed specifically to take co-mingled loads. Materials are accepted from new construction projects, renovations, demolitions of buildings roads and bridges, providing a potential re-use stream for wood, drywall, metals, concrete, dirt and cardboard. End use markets are bio-fuel, wood pellets, mulch, hot mix asphalt, cold patch, new concrete and recycled cardboard products.
  • Columbia, Missouri – Habitat for Humanity Restore – In addition to accepting new or used serviceable lumber, fixtures, plumbing supplies, bricks, doors for resale or habitat use, the Columbia Restore also runs a Latex Paint recycling program, taking partial or full cans. The paint storage area is open free to the public twice a month. (Very popular, fights have erupted in wait-lines according to Waste Professional in Columbia)


Various options were discussed in varying lengths within one or both focus groups. Below are some viable solutions for the near future:

  • Enerkem System – Is a thermo-chemical system developed in Canada that uses pressure, chemicals, and 800 degrees of heat to recycle 15 different kinds of trash into renewable electricity, chemicals for plastic, and ethanol that can run cars. C&D debris utilized is concrete, wood, drywall, asphalt, metal, bricks and un-recyclable industrial plastics. A second plant is currently underway in Mississippi. It is listed as one of 50 most innovative companies in the world.
  • Wood to Pulp Process (all woods, treated and painted) – Wood liquefaction is a key technological area being explored in conjunction with the closed-loop recycling program at the LSU Agricultural Center’s Calhoun Research Station. The end products from the process include the chemicals originally used to treat the wood as well as nontoxic liquefied wood that can be used for resins, molded wood products, foams and plastics.
  • Styrofoam Recycling/Compression – A recent addition to the St. Louis area.  Drop off available in Chesterfield Valley at EPC, Inc. a small independently owned recycling center which takes styrofoam and compresses it into reusable solid blocks.
  • Biomass – A renewable energy source, it is biological material from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, gas, and alcohol fuels. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel
VIDEO: Dale Behan of Peerless Waste discusses incentives to increase C & D Waste Diversion.

Our research below offers a list of C&D regulatory best practices. The list provides a summary of the different actions that entities at every governmental level can take to encourage C&D recycling.

Local government can do the following:

  • Fund public education and outreach programs designed to educate the public and to create small business opportunities for the municipality;
  • Implement a mandatory recycling policy of selected materials prior to permit issuance when the dollar value exceeds a specific threshold i.e. $50,000;
  • Implement curbside collection for selected C&D materials;
  • Decriminalize the salvaging of building materials from demolition sites;
  • Implement Green Building programs;
  • Provide tax incentives to businesses that recycle;
  • Maintain an open market for C&D debris collection;
  • Issue permits to roll-off box haulers but not to franchises;
  • Require non-exclusive commercial franchises, and
  • Rebate a portion of the franchise fee if recycling occurs.

State governments can do the following:

  • Fund a public education and outreach effort to educate the public on C&D issues and opportunities;
  • Enact a Green Building bill for all state and local government building and renovation projects with a high recycling of C&D materials goals;
  • Enact a “Recyclable Construction and Demolition Debris” (RCDM) bill;
  • Prohibit solid waste franchises from covering C&D debris with clay based soil and instead require the covering be quality compost (Clay coverings contained in Ohio’s RCDM legislation);
  • Make a distinction between material recovery facilities and non-recycling processing facilities;
  • Require C&D debris to be processed before disposal (a Massachusetts law);
  • Require liners for C&D debris disposal facilities;
  • Provide sales tax exemptions for recycling equipment i.e. on-site grinding equipment;
  • Provide sales tax exemptions for recycled construction materials;
  • Provide grants to local governments to improve C&D debris recycling, and
  • Provide low-interest loans to recycling businesses.

The EPA recommends that, when contractor bids are initially solicited, that the contractors submitting a bid also be required to submit a plan for reducing, reusing, or recycling the wastes generated onsite. Contractors may be offered the incentive of allowing them to keep the revenues from recycling and savings from avoided landfill costs due to waste reduction. Although it can be difficult to find recycling or reuse markets for some materials, one resource that contractors can consult is the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA), which is an association of C&D debris generators, haulers, processors, recyclers, and re-manufacturers. The contractor plan should include a discussion of the following items (EPA, 2003:7):

  1. Carefully estimate the number of materials that will be needed;
  2. Identify markets for recyclable materials; and
  3. Establish recycling systems onsite and make sure that both contractors and subcontractors receive instructions on sorting their own waste.

Deconstruction, rather than demolition, can also maximize the salvage of materials for reuse or recycling by disassembling buildings and removing materials in stages. Items such as flooring, siding, windows, doors, bricks, plumbing fixtures, ceiling tiles, and structural components can be salvaged. Apart from increased C&D material salvage, deconstruction often brings benefits such as job creation. Deconstruction requires more time and manual labor than does demolition, and in some areas deconstruction is used to train at-risk youth and welfare-to-work program participants (EPA, 2003)

According to NDA, current state regulations pose a number of barriers to C&D recycling efforts. They include:

  • Excessive fees for permits to operate a C&D recycling facility;
  • Over-regulation of procedures used at C&D recycling facilities;
  • Limited opportunities in state purchasing procedures for the reuse of C&D recycled material; and
  • Unrealistic C&D recycling goals tied to regional or statewide mandates.

VIDEO: Chris Cahnovsky & Bill Seffens discuss the impact of policy on C & D Waste.

In California for example, Sonoma County requires incoming loads of C&D waste to be inspected. Loads could be turned away unless they already have been sorted for recyclables. Companies that do not comply must pay a 25 percent surcharge to drop off the waste and let the county handle the resorting.

In Ohio, the governor has proposed a big increase in landfill tipping fees from $2 per ton to $4.75 per ton. That is in addition to the fee charged by the landfill operator (an average of $28 per ton in Ohio).

In Illinois, Chicago contractors are required to recycle 25 percent of all C&D debris generated in the city, with the number jumping to 50 percent by 2007. Chicago defines C&D debris as “non-hazardous, non-contaminated solid waste resulting from construction, renovation and demolition projects.”

In Oregon, the city of Portland requires a 75 percent recycling rate on all C&D projects exceeding $50,000. More specifically, all land-clearing debris, corrugated cardboard, metals, concrete and asphalt must be recycled within the metro area. A $35 per ton tax is imposed on all landfilled debris, in addition to the $22 per ton tipping fee. Waste Management Inc., Houston, has opened a Portland MRF to achieve the 75 percent diversion requirements placed on its C&D drop box service.

The last U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study of C&D debris estimated that 70 percent of the more than 135 million tons of waste comes from demolition projects. A sizeable portion of demolition debris — estimated to be 40 percent — already is being recycled by demolition contractors.

Some contractors routinely achieve 80 to 90 percent recycling rates. However, the National Demolition Association (NDA), the North American trade organization representing companies involved in the demolition process, wants to see a substantial growth in the average 40 percent rate. It has called upon the EPA to develop a national C&D recycling policy.

Those barriers contribute to the sizable capital investment needed in equipment, land, time, labor and all other cost points, and further make setting up a profit-making C&D recycling venture difficult, NDA says. A national C&D recycling policy, on the other hand, would create an infrastructure that would free-up landfill space and promote the reuse of valuable commodities and good resource stewardship, while sustaining a cleaner environment, the association says.

NDA suggests a national recycling policy that includes:

  • National guidelines dealing with the movement of C&D material;
  • Standards for material quality, thereby increasing commodity marketability;
  • Research, incentives and development of end-use markets for recycled C&D debris;
  • Promotion of recycled C&D materials in the marketplace;
  • National inspection standards for C&D recycling facilities; and
  • New tax incentives offered by the federal government to end-users of recycled products that would further encourage their use.

NDA says a national C&D recycling policy has potential to help the industry flourish, similar to when President Bill Clinton mandated that the federal government — the largest single buyer of paper in the world — increase its recycled paper use. The pulp and paper industry responded immediately to develop recycling facilities to meet the demand, the association says. Consequently, NDA believes that the federal government could produce a similar substantial increase in the recycling and reuse of C&D material by establishing purchasing guidelines and specifications for C&D.

The NDA has identified 14 major constituents of a structure that can be recycled. The list includes carpet, drywall, glass, ceiling tiles, wood, asphalt roofing shingles, brick, metal and other constituents. Realistically, concrete, metal, high-quality lumber and wood have the best market value. Other items with a decent after-market include asphalt, brick and architectural features, such as door, windows, and plumbing and electrical fixtures. The relatively low value of the other constituents can deter contractors from recycling. Drywall can be recycled and is recycled regularly in Europe. However, issues such as the age of the drywall that may contain asbestos and whether drywall was painted (it could have been painted with lead paint) make recycling drywall somewhat unfeasible.

Additional Resources & Best Practices: Existing Buildings

Design for Disassembly in the Built Environment: An Atlanta Home Case Study, by Andrea Korber and Brad Guy for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4 (PDF, 462 KB)
Building Reuse: Finding a Place on American Climate Policy Agendas, by Patrice Frey, National Trust for Historic Preservation, September 2008 (PDF, 171 KB)
An Open Building Strategy for Converting Obsolete Office Buildings to Residential Uses July 2003, by Dr. Stephen Kendall, RA, CIB1 for the International Lean Construction Institute (8.1 MB)
Old to New Design Guide: Salvaged Building Materials in New Construction, January 2002, by Paul Kernan, MAIBC, Greater Vancouver Regional District Policy & Planning Department (PDF, 6.8 MB)
Green Home Remodel: Salvage & Reuse, Seattle Public Utilities Sustainable Building Program 2005, by Thor Peterson for Seattle Public Utilities Resource Conservation (PDF, 430 KB)
Green Home Remodel: Salvage & Reuse
Louisiana Historic Building Recovery Grant Program

Additional Resources & Best Practices: New Construction

Lifecycle Construction Resource Guide, by The Pollution Prevention Program Office, U. S. EPA, Region 4. (PDF, 1.3 MB)
The Lifecycle Construction Guide
Design for Deconstruction: The Chartwell School Case Study, by Scott Shell, Octavio Gutierrez, Lynn Fisher, et al for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 (PDF, 1.2 MB)
Design for Deconstruction: The Chartwell School Case Study
Design for Disassembly in the Built Environment: A Guide to Closed Loop in Design and Building, by Brad Guy and Nicholas Ciarimboli for City of Seattle, King County, WA, and Resource Ventures, Inc. (PDF, 1.9 MB)
Design for Disassembly in the Built Environment: A Guide to Closed Loop in Design and Building
Productecture: Design for Remanufacturing, 2002, by Andrea Korber, Masters Thesis for the Harvard Design School (PDF, 721 KB)
Productecture: Design for Remanufacturing

Additional Resources & Best Practices: Deconstruction

Deconstruction: A New Cottage Industry For New Orleans, August, 2006, by Preston Browning, Mercy Corps Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery, New Orleans, LA; Brad Guy, Hamer Center for Community Design, Pennsylvania State University; Chris Beck, Consultant, New Orleans, LA (PDF, 676 KB)
Deconstruction: A New Cottage Industry For New Orleans, August, 2006
A Regional Opportunity to Promote Deconstruction and Reuse of Building Materials at JFK Corporate Square, October 2004, by Eileen Banaticla, NY Wa$teMatch for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 (PDF, 795 KB)
Badger Army Ammunition Plan Deconstruction Feasibility Study, March 2004, by Brad Guy, Penn State University; Tim Williams, University of Florida; Bill Bowman, Austin Habitat for Humanity for USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI (PDF, 624 KB)
The Optimization of Building Deconstruction for Department of Defense Facilities: Ft. McClellan Deconstruction ProjectJournal of Green Building, November 2006, by Bradley Guy, Hamer Center for Community Design, Penn State University (PDF, 4 MB)

Deconstruction Case Studies

Six House Building Deconstruction Case Study: Reuse and Recycling of Building Materials, 2000, by Bradley Guy, Powell Center for Construction and Environment for Alachua County Solid Wastes Management Innovative Recycling Project Program (PDF, 125 KB)

ReStore Deconstruction Case Study: 1940 Barn, 2006, by Erin Marden for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PDF, 415 KB)
ReStore Deconstruction Case Study: Commercial Building circa 1970s, 2006, by Erin Marden
for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PDF, 490 KB)
ReStore Deconstruction Case Study: Residential Dwelling, Circa 1970s, 2006, by Erin Marden for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PDF, 481 KB)
ReStore Deconstruction Case Study: Residential House, Circa 1950s, 2006, by Erin Marden
for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PDF, 481 KB)
Don’t Demolish That Building – Deconstruct ItCollege Planning & Management, June 2002, by Marisa Miller Hegyesi, University of Texas Health Science Center; Brian K. Yeoman, University of Texas Health Science Center (PDF, 217 KB)
Housing Deconstruction – Building Disassembly and Material Salvage: The Riverdale Case Study, 1997, by Eric Lund and Peter Yost, NAHB Research Center, Inc. (PDF, 135 KB)
The Urban and Economic Development Division Naval Air Station Alameda Deconstruction Case Study, 1999, by Lisa Geller, Materials for the Future Foundation for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 (PDF, 89 KB)

Deconstruction Works Case Studies, Materials for the Future Foundation, September 2001

Deconstruction: Lead-Based Paint

Remilling of Salvaged Wood Siding Coated with Lead-based Paint, July/ August 2005, by Robert H. Falk. John J. Janowiak, Stephen D. Cosper, Susan A. Drozdz for Forest Products Journal Volume 55, Number 7/8 (PDF, 85 KB)

Regulatory and Policy Issues for Reuse and Remanufacture of Wood Materials Coated with Lead-Based Paint, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, General Technical Report, FPL–GTR–164, December 2005, by Thomas R. Napier, Department of the Army, Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory; Robert H. Falk, Research Engineer, Forest Products Laboratory; George B. Guy, Hamer Center for Community Design, Pennsylvania State University; Susan Drodz, Department of the Army, Engineer Research and Development Center (PDF, 416 KB)

Characterization of Building Construction and Demolition Materials

Estimating 2003 Building-Related Construction and Demolition Materials Amounts, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 530-R-09-002, March 2009

Targeted Statewide Waste Characterization Study: Detailed Characterization of Construction and Demolition Waste, California Integrated Waste Management Board, 341-06-007, June 2006

Additional Publications

U.S. EPA Construction & Demolition Debris/Deconstruction Document Weblinks

Designing Structural Systems for Deconstruction: How to Extend a New Building’s Useful Life and Prevent it from Going to Waste When the End Finally Comes, Greenbuild Conference, November 2005, by Mark D. Webster, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.; Daniel T. Costello, Costello Dismantling Co., Inc. (PDF, 437 KB)

Building Related Construction & Demolition Debris Characterization Report, Characterization of Building-Related Construction and Demolition Debris in the United States, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 530-R-98-010; June 1998 (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Reuse Weblinks

Deconstruction Weblinks

Construction & Demolition Debris Weblinks

EPA Weblinks


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