Construction and demolition recycling is expanding rapidly as more architects and owners support sustainable building practices. Recycling is almost always a key element and more contractors are offering their own "green building" services while processors are recycling everything from wallboard to roofing and haulers are adding recycling as a new service.

Haulers are a critical link.  Contractors typically expect them to swap containers in and out on schedule and also advise on what wastes can be recycled and track where wastes go. Haulers are the source of documentation critical for reporting under the Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED certification program. But there are problems.

The realities of the waste hauling business don't always jibe with the priorities of sustainable building and recycling. To get what you need from a hauler, it is necessary to understand their operations and make sure they know the realities of sustainable building.

If you find a "LEED-certified" hauler, run away.  There is no such thing. LEED certifies buildings and accredits professionals who plan, monitor implementation and report for certification under the rating system. LEED does not certify haulers, any more than it certifies electricians or roofers.

Some haulers even stamp "LEED" on their tonnage reports or invoices. They think it gives them a marketing edge. But if they make the claim, they are counting on your ignorance.

Haulers make money two ways.They use the least expensive markets they can find and make as many trips to them as possible.

Economically, it is in the best interests of owners and contractors to recycle source-separated waste versus mixed debris recycling. Source-separation generates the highest recycling rates, with aggregates, wood, wallboard or metals weighing in at 100%. The best mixed-debris recyclers reach recycling rates of about 80%, and many recycle at 30 to 60%.

A large fraction of wastes recycled as mixed debris ends up as "alternate daily cover" in landfills. Although LEED certifies ADC as recycled, it clearly is not as valuable a use as returning wastes to the economy in new products.

Relatively few haulers support source-separated recycling. Opponents say it is too expensive, too complicated, takes too much space and is too much trouble. But this attitude is not in line with the needs of owners or contractors.

Pricing Change

The issues tend to converge in the subject of unit pricing. For decades, construction waste has been priced by the container. A fixed or unit price to set and pull the container and dispose of its contents is easy and profitable for haulers. But unit pricing does not work when you recycle. Recycling costs need to be broken down into the cost to transport wastes to the correct markets and the tipping fee to process them. Requiring this information is the only way that an owner or contractor can be assured that wastes are going to suitable recycling markets and the financial benefits are being achieved.

This also explains why weight slips are hard to extract from many haulers. By combining the weight slips with the per-container disposal price and a four-function calculator, you can generate the cost per ton to manage all the wastes on the site. On a LEED job or any project where the owner or architect requires recycling documentation, weight slips provide the fundamental record of what has been recycled, the quantity and how it has been recycled. Contractors responsible for documenting waste must have them.

Still, there is no reason why there cannot be a productive relationship between contractors and haulers.  Many haulers realize that recycling is the future and are willing to support it by providing the needed information and billing practices. The best will even help calculate project mrecycling rates and prepare documentation for LEED or other certification.

By offering services that distinguish them from "traditional" haulers, they hope to attract market share. Look for a hauler with this business model and you will have found a good partner.

Mark Lennon is CEO of Institution Recycling Network, Concord, N.H. He can be reached at 866-229-1962 or mlennon@ir-network.com.