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.
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!