Construction Management

5 Tips for Recycling Your Construction Waste

Published by in Construction Management

Did you know that in a country like the United States, construction waste accounts for about one third of all refuse nationwide?

With a statistic like this, it’s clear that even modest efforts to make better use of debris or existing building materials can make significant changes. Even if you are starting from a greenfield site, construction waste will always occur. (Cardboard, plastic packaging, and excess building materials are just some examples.)

What Gets Recycled and How?

According to where your building project is being carried out, old and excess recyclable materials can include:

  • Masonry for reuse in your construction or for crushing to make road bases
  • Windows, doors, and roofing (where reusable) for use in other habitations
  • Appliances and fixtures, including sinks and baths, for refitting elsewhere
  • Lumber and wood products (where reusable) for reuse, or conversion to mulch or biomass fuel
  • Metals for smelting and conversion into other products
  • Vegetation and trees for replanting if feasible, or for biomass fuel
  • Cardboard and paper for pulping
  • Plastic crates/container, bags and sheets (where reusable)

Some materials even lead to a negative impact on health and the environment if they are simply disposed of as landfill. For example, lead in contact with water makes the water toxic. Plasterboard in landfills releases hydrogen sulfide, which is a poisonous gas.

Looking for a visual walkthrough? The following video shares 6 tips for improving your construction waste management system.


Tip 1. Build It Back Into the New Building

The smartest way to recycle construction waste is to integrate it back into the new building or the new building site. Some of this may happen naturally. In remodeling projects, walls are not necessarily demolished. They may simply be redecorated, moved, or reconfigured. Lumber cut-offs in wood-framed constructions may be useful for fire blocking or as spacers.

Tip 2. Build to Standard Dimensions

Building projects may offer the chance to use building materials supplied in standard measurements. The less you have to adapt or cut, the less wastage you will incur – not to mention the time and effort saved. Framing layouts can be planned to use standard wood lengths, for instance. Standard dimensions also make it easier to reuse any materials you have left over.

Tip 3. Locate Your Local Recycling Center

The key word here is local. If it takes too much time, effort, and gas to transport construction waste for recycling, look for another solution (like avoiding waste instead). If the recycling center is close enough, find out what they take and when they open. Then add necessary trips to your overall construction schedule and planning to minimize overall impact. Take waste to the recycling center on the way out when you go to fetch new building materials, for instance.

Tip 4. Practice Deconstruction Instead of Demolition

Organizations exist in some areas to remove reusable items without damage for reuse in social housing projects. There may also be tax advantages to the customer who is paying for the overall project. If this is not possible, an alternative is a front yard sale of such items during the construction project. Radiators, grates, piping, appliances, and fittings in sufficiently good condition can all qualify.

Tip 5. Calculate the Savings

In case you had any doubts about it, recycling construction waste is not only a way of helping the planet, but also an opportunity for higher profitability, better prices to customers, or both. In buying fewer new materials, recycling waste without having to transport it, or reselling it where is has market value, there are positive economic as well as environmental consequences. Good construction accounting tools will help you to manage the savings to be made through recycling.

Which construction materials do you find the easiest to recycle? Give us your input or suggestions in the comments space below!

Looking for Construction Accounting software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Accounting software solutions.

About the Author

Rachel Burger

Rachel Burger

Rachel is a former Capterra analyst who covered project management.


Comment by Joshef on

Nice blog. I will use these tips when recycling.

Comment by Marlon Jones on

Awesome tips! Recycling waste is great both for the environment and the pocket. Reusing is a great option too. But sometimes there are construction materials that can’t be recycled. For those, it’s best to call a company specialized in waste disposal that disposes correctly of it (not just the ones that dump it in a landfill). I recommend Freedom Waste Services, they’re amazing at their job!


Comment by Norman Stokes on

I really liked how well you explained different materials. Can you throw some light on the lead part? What happens to that and how to deal with the problem of lead. Even after knowing that it is dangerous should we still dump it in the dumping grounds? Isn’t there any alternative?

Comment by Gobinda Burman on

But what about pile broken concrete?
Broken tiles & marbles?


Comment by Lee Kilcoyne on

We found a great website that you can buy and sell unwanted building materials ranging from tiles to timber for cheap prices. All you have to do is go and pick it up. The aim is to reduce waste going to landfill and extending the products lifecycle.
It also saves you time and money. If you dont have to skip all the materials at the end of a project you have on skips and labour. Its free to sign up too. DONT SKIP IT, SELL IT…

Pingback by Renovating South of France Property on a Budget | Charles Mackintosh on

[…] you’re taking on a large renovation. If you have an appropriate vehicle, making waste disposal (or even recycling) a DIY task can lead to serious savings that will give you more room in the budget later on in the […]

Comment by Lovely Rock on

Thanks for letting me know about it. This includes building materials such as insulation, nails, electrical wiring, shingle, and roofing as well as waste originating from site preparation such as dredging materials, tree stumps, and rubble. Construction waste may contain lead, asbestos, or other hazardous substances.

Comment by Christopher Swentner on

Great stuff!

I am the recycling coordinator at Armstrong World Industries. We recycle millions of square feet of ceiling tile each year. Please contact me to assist you with your ceiling tile recycling needs!!


Comment by Michael Oats on

I’ve recently had to renovate an office building, and can assure you theres always left over waste and things you don’t need. However you can always find ways to reuse leftover cardboard boxes, buckers, bolts, and other materials. These tips mentioned above are really good it’s important for everyone to do their part to help minimize waste.

Comment by Jade Brunet on

Thank you for providing this information about recycling construction waste. It is good to learn that windows, doors, and roofing can be reused in other habitations. Something to consider would be to keep these pieces in good condition when demolishing a house. Something else to think about would be to seek help from experienced professionals when carrying out a project like this to ensure quality work and enhance safety.

Comment by Easi Porta on

Love this blog. Great reality check for everyone


Comment by Hazel Owens on

I think it’s a great idea to reuse or recycle building materials as much as possible. That being said, I hadn’t thought about how old wood products in a house could be converted to mulch if they can’t be used in building. I’m glad that the wood doesn’t just go to waste, though at least it would biodegrade in a landfill. Speaking of which, you mentioned that plasterboard can be toxic in landfills; can it be recycled and made into new plasterboard instead? Thanks.

Comment by rohitjayasurya@earthquakeproofbuildings on

Most common materials such as C&D materials can be recycled which includes porcelain, rigid plastic tile and lumbers etc.

Comment by David Owens on

I recently renovated my home and i can assure everyone that this indeed are good pointers to be mindful of. The waste i generated, and couldn’t take care of myself, i trusted to professionals – the ones i have the joy of working with. Great post Rachel!

Comment by Joel Tedbury on

It is true that construction sites contain a huge amount of construction waste. And recycling it is a major issue. But five simple tips described in this article can solve this problem. Thanks for sharing this valuable article on recycling construction waste.

Comment by recycling on

This is a beautiful idea!

Comment by John on

This is a great idea. We supply our plastic waste to initiatives like these. When our PP floor protection is used, we can supply it to initiatives like this. These are the products I am talking about

Comment by agathachristy on

Awesome information, actually am also a construction engineer. i thought by using building wastage what should we do, it is waste of money and time only. but this idea is very effective. i think there are some possibilities to workout this

Comment by Jordan W on

Great list of tips here! Everyone can learn to be less wasteful, especially during construction projects. A lot of the things “left over” can be used for something else! Thanks for sharing.

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