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It is becoming more difficult and expensive to dispose of
both hazardous and non-hazardous construction and demolition (C&D)
waste because of stricter environmental regulations and a shortage of
landfill space. Non-hazardous C&D waste typically consists of
concrete, insulation, bricks, asphalt, wood, glass, masonry, roofing,
siding, plaster and drywall, soil, rock, stumps, boulders, and brush.
Across the country solid waste disposal is highly regulated. Know
your state and local regulations. Any component of C&D waste
that is not reused, recycled, or directed toward a beneficial use is
regarded as solid waste and needs to be disposed of at a licensed
Even if recycling is not an option for certain materials, source
separation can still be beneficial. By separating bulky from less bulky
materials, you may be able to haul some of your waste to a cheaper
Depending on local regs you may be able to use "clean fill"
on site or on other sites. Clean fill means "soil, dirt, sand,
gravel, rocks, and rebar-free concrete, emplaced free of charge to the
person placing the fill, in order to adjust or create topographic
irregularities for agricultural or construction purposes." Be
aware that wood, asphalt, wallboard, mixed construction debris, and the
like are not considered clean fill.
Contact your State Codes Bureau before using clean fill as a base
Home or industrial appliances containing CFCs
Appliances (also called white goods) include water heaters,
refrigerators, kitchen stoves, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes
dryers. White goods should be recycled.
Note that refrigerators may contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or small
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) capacitors that are regulated by the EPA.
A release of CFCs into the environment is illegal; consequently the CFCs
must be removed by an EPA-certified remover prior to recycling or
disposal. You may be required to have the CFCs removed or pay the
recycler/landfill to have it removed.
For more information on PCBs or CFCs, contact the State EPA Operations
- 40 CFR 50-99, Title VI Regulations in the Clean Air Act Section
regarding CFC management.
Storage and Collection of Waste
How waste is collected and stored is often regulated. The
following are often components of regulations as well as good management
- Solid waste must be collected and stored to prevent vector growth;
conditions for transmission of diseases to humans or animals; hazards
to service or disposal workers or the public; air pollution, water
pollution, or escape of solid wastes or contaminated water to public
waters; objectionable odors; dust; unsightliness; or other nuisance
- Solid waste must be removed at regular intervals. Check with city or
county officials for local storage, safety, and removal requirements.
- Storage bins and areas must be watertight, rodent-proof, cleaned
regularly, and managed to minimize leaks or spills.
- Site must be kept clean and litter must be controlled.
- Burning or burying solid waste is strictly regulated.
- Solid waste being transported on a public highway must be attached,
covered, or otherwise secured to the vehicle to prevent littering or
creating a dangerous obstruction.
EVALUATE YOUR SOLID WASTE STREAM
What does your waste stream look like? Below is a list of materials
that usually make up a construction project's waste stream. Fill in the
estimated percent by volume for each component (waste stream percentages
will vary according to the type of project being done). By examining what
typically goes into your dumpster, you can identify wastes that can be
eliminated, minimized, salvaged, or recycled.
Waste Stream Assessment:
||_______% Plastics & Foam
||_______% Crates & Pallets
||_______% Electrical Wire
||_______% Fireproofing Overspray
REDUCE SOLID WASTE
New buildings generate large amounts of waste, especially wood waste.
According to the Center for Resourceful Building Technology in Missoula, a
typical new single-family home creates 4-7 tons of waste, almost 50% of
which is wood. Efficient wood use stretches the limited supply of wood
products, reduces the pressure on forests from logging, and saves you
Best Pollution Prevention Practices
- Reduce the amount of waste generated during construction.
- Reduce disposal fees and construction costs.
- Provide a safe, clean site.
- Design to use less. Evaluate the design to see if there are ways to
increase the efficiency of materials used.
- Use standard lumber or drywall dimensions.
- Buy only as much material as you need to get the job done.
- Salvage and reuse items that are in good condition such as doors,
cabinets, and equipment.
- Encourage reduction of packaging waste. Ask suppliers to deliver
products in returnable pallets and containers.
- Store lumber on level blocking and cover to minimize warping,
twisting, and waste.
- Measure carefully. Use a central cutting area. Smaller lengths can
be used for spacers or blocking or left for firewood. Save clean
sawdust for compost or mulch.
- Make subcontractors responsible for their own waste. Include waste
reduction in subcontract specifications.
- Use alternative materials, such as engineered wood products, which
can be ordered to the exact size you need.
SALVAGE OR REUSE WASTE
Renovating an existing structure rather than building a new one is one
of the best ways to reduce material waste. Renovation avoids wasted energy
from the manufacture, transport, and assembly of new building materials.
Salvage of materials is usually more cost effective than disposal, but
this depends on local markets for resale or reuse of materials. It is a
good idea to go over the building with someone from a local salvage
business (listed in the Yellow Pages under "Demolition
Contractors," "Salvage," or "Building Materials -
As an example, you might never think of reusing blueprints. Blueprints
can be cut into scratch pads or used at a preschool for art classes.
Look for other ways to reuse materials that would otherwise end up in a
Another way you can divert wastes from landfills is to locate a local
Material Exchange These exchanges connect
businesses that have unwanted but usable materials with businesses that
need those materials. The benefits of exchanges include reduction of
disposal costs, acquisition of inexpensive raw materials, and decreased
use of landfills.
Best Pollution Prevention Practices
- Reuse materials.
- Save landfill space.
- Save energy.
- Conserve natural resources.
- Identify salvage opportunities.
- To avoid ownership problems with salvage materials, sign clearly
written contracts before project permits are issued. You may need a
separate agreement with each salvage company. Include appropriate
insurance and licensing requirements in these agreements.
- Allow time for salvage as early in the construction process as
- Use as many existing materials and building components as possible
in the new design or store them for use in a future project.
- Donate materials to nonprofit organizations if you cannot use them.
- Plan ahead for salvage. A built-in is a good example of an item that
can be salvaged if elements are attached with screws rather than glue.
It is impossible to eliminate or salvage all waste; however, studies
show that builders who separate and recycle waste can save on hauling and
disposal costs even when they factor in the extra labor. Material recovery
facilities (MRFs) usually offer reduced rates for disposal of recyclable
C&D waste. Although there are currently few of these facilities in
Montana, the number of MRFs will likely increase with demand.
Uses for Recycled Materials
Materials suitable for recycling today include cardboard, concrete, and
metals. Uses and markets for products that previously could not be
recycled are now expanding (examples: gypsum from wallboard is used as a
soil amendment; concrete and asphalt are crushed and used as aggregate or
base material. Construction industry waste makes up roughly 20% of the
total municipal waste stream recycling can significantly lower this
Best Pollution Prevention Practices
- Reduce disposal fees and overall construction costs through
- Provide feedstock for the manufacture of new materials.
- Evaluate your waste stream. Estimate the quantity of recyclable
materials you will generate. Identify materials that have the most
recycling potential in your area. Recyclable materials are likely to
include cardboard, wood, metal, concrete, masonry, and wallboard.
- Contact local recycling centers to determine each facility's
acceptance requirements and restrictions. Find out if they recycle
plastics, paints and finishes, asphalt roofing, or expanded
polystyrene. Find out if they require separation of wastes or allow
- Compare the costs for hauling clean source-separated materials
versus mixed waste.
- Incorporate recycling into subcontracts. Include requirements for
source separation and on-site recycling.
- Ask your waste hauler or cleanup contractor to supply bins and to
give you advice for setting up the site for maximum recycling.
- Clearly designate recycling bins. Use color coding or large
- Encourage subcontractors and employees to reuse and recycle. Discuss
waste handling requirements before beginning a project and ask for
their suggestions about more efficient methods or materials.
- Track your results. Compare the costs to separate materials for
recycling versus hauling everything to a landfill.
- Work with your local building association or solid waste agency to
expand opportunities for recycling.
Center for Resourceful Building Technology (CRBT)
PO Box 100
Missoula, MT 59806