Recycling Construction Debris
by Adam Davis
With $100 billion in new construction each year in the United States, and $126 billion in renovations, the recovery of materials from construction and demolition (C&D) has important economic and environmental implications.
To the extent that the debris from construction and demolition can be reused or recycled rather than thrown away, demand for virgin resources is reduced, the embedded energy in these materials is recaptured, and the need for increasingly limited landfill space is reduced.
In addition to these environmental benefits, C&D recycling may also yield economic benefits by providing an additional source of revenue for companies engaged in construction and demolition.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 136 million tons (123 million tonnes) of building-related C&D debris were generated in 1996.
Building demolitions account for 48 percent, or 65 million tons (59 million tonnes) per year, of the C&D waste stream. Renovations account for 44 percent, or 60 million tons (54 million tonnes) per year. And construction sites generate eight percent, or 11 million tons (10 million tonnes) per year.
Options for Recovery
There is an increasing trend toward recovery of C&D debris in the United States. Depending on local economic factors such a C&D landfill disposal (tipping) fees, labor costs, and market value of recovered materials, recovery may be competitive with disposal and may produce bottom-line savings.