Tracking Trash: Construction teams place higher importance on construction waste management
...metals, aggregate, masonry, cardboard, sheetrock and plastic film. Most of the remaining materials are processed into a non-structural soil substitute used for landfill grading.
Many contractors are opting for offsite sorting and recycling of comingled wastes. “Finding enough space for multiple containers [for onsite sorting] is one issue,” Halter says. “Training the trades so that they actually put the materials in segregated containers is also a challenge.”
“It is cheaper to sort it offsite,” Taylor says. “We have the mechanical means and our labor costs are usually cheaper than sorting on the jobsite.”
Mike Buono, founder of Environmental Service Management Group (ESMG), advocates onsite C&D waste sorting. Before a project starts, ESMG develops a plan identifying the types and volumes of waste materials generated at each stage of construction.
Instead of a single hauler, the plan designates multiple facilities and vendors to take the materials. “It makes sense to source separate,” Buono says. “It is cheaper.”
Available recycling markets make it “fairly doable” to recycle 50 to 75 percent of C&D wastes, Buono says. “Ten years ago you would have had to look hard to find that.”
On a recent renovation project for the New York-based National Resources Defense Council, ESMG showed the demolition contractor how to systematically remove 4-ft. by 4-ft. sections of sheetrock for recycling. The approach produced less dust and noise, enabling demolition to be done during the day.
“Taking the materials out one commodity at a time saved time and money and insured the materials were actually recycled,” Buono says.
Management reports updated daily showed recycling rates and indicated how much of the remaining waste needed to be recycled to meet or exceed the project’s recycling target. The project recycled 62.4 tons of waste, achieving a 96.5 percent rate.
Increased recycling is opening new materials markets and spurring innovation. “You were never able to get rid of sheetrock, no one recycled it,” Cardella says. “Now it is easier to find markets for it.”
New opportunities for recycling gypsum are changing how Cardella processes waste. “We are moving away from crushing and chopping equipment,” he explains. Sheetrock is now manually extracted from comingled loads on the picking belts and sent to a company that sells it for fertilizer.
Traditionally most of the recycled gypsum at Taylor was going back to wallboard manufactures. “We started taking in so much material that we had to find an alternative market,” Talyor says.
Working in conjunction with Cornell University, Taylor identified local apple farmers that are...