What is C&D Waste?


Construction Waste Reduction

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Last Modified:
November 01, 2000



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Typical construction site -- complete with a full bin of waste
This information was compiled with funding from Region 8 of the Environmental Protection Agency and Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Information Center.
     - Construction Waste focus developed by CONFLUENCE Associates
          - Brooke Williams:  brookus@lasal.net
          - Brian Goetz:  bfgoetz@breezy.com

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that construction and demolition (C&D) waste accounts for approximately 24% of all waste landfilled in a given year (EPA, 1995) amounting to about 136 million tons annually. Of this debris, approximately 57% is non-residential and 43% is residential. New construction generates an estimated 11 million tons (8%), renovation 60 million tons (44%) and demolition another 65 million tons (48%). Unlike municipal solid waste, which has established and predictable generation rates, C&D waste varies because of a number of factors: 

  • The state of the economy will affect the amount of building that takes place -- Generally, the better the economy, more construction occurs, resulting in more construction waste. 
  • Catastrophic events such as tornadoes, floods and earthquakes will create a lot of demolition waste. 
  • C&D wastes volumes vary with the seasons. 
  • Public projects such as roadway and utility construction will add to the C&D waste stream.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines construction waste as:

Waste building materials, dredging materials, tree stumps, and rubble resulting from construction remodeling, repair, and demolition of homes, commercial buildings and other structures and pavements. These debris may contain lead, asbestos or other hazardous substances.

Construction waste disposal is an often overlooked constituent of municipal solid waste (MSW) and is regulated on the state and local level. Therefore, the guidelines for disposing of construction wastes vary from state to state. Construction wastes used to be burned in fires or buried on-site. However, these practices have been widely abandoned and in most states,  made illegal. Today, most of the construction waste generated in the U.S. is thrown into dumpsters and hauled to either a permitted construction and demolition (C&D)  waste landfill or a municipal solid waste facility. The EPA estimated that there were 1800 C&D landfills operating in the United States in 1995.

Another option for disposal of C&D waste is in on-site facilities. Typically, these sites are used only for the disposal of C&D waste generated at that site and are closed after the construction work is completed. Because these sites are on privately owned land and receive only waste generated at that site, there is not much data available about them. 

Studies estimate that C&D waste accounts for 10 to 30 percent of the MSW waste stream. The Garbage Project at the University of Arizona estimates that C&D waste accounts for 12 percent by volume and 28 percent of the landfill’s contents.

A comprehensive study performed in Toronto, Canada, revealed the following average composition of construction wastes deposited in their metropolitan facilities: 

      • 34.8 % - wood 
      • 26.9% - glass, ceramic, rubble, aggregate
      • 16.6% - building materials 
      • 7.8% - paper and paperboard 
      • 7.3% - steel 
      • 2.5% - plastic 
      • 3.7% - miscellaneous 

A study was performed recently in one of the fastest growing communities in the Peaks to Prairies region -- Summit County, Utah. The rapid, mostly residential development has brought with it an increase in construction waste. The following graph illustrates the C&D waste composition:

* Source - Confluence Associates, 1998

All of these components can be recycled, especially the wood, cardboard, and drywall. If those three items were recycled, a 77% reduction in waste would be achieved, thus saving resources and landfill space.
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