Solid Waste
February 25, 2015

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.

Disposal Regulations

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 landfill.

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 facility.

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 material

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 Office


  • 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 practices:

  • 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 conditions.
  • 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.


_______% Wood
_______% Drywall
_______% Paper
_______% Cardboard
_______% Concrete
_______% Masonry
_______% Asphalt
_______% Fiberglass
_______% Metals
_______% Plastics & Foam
_______% Packaging
_______% Crates & Pallets
_______% Insulation<
_______% Electrical Wire
_______% Fireproofing Overspray
_______% Other______________


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 money.

Best Pollution Prevention Practices

  1. Reduce the amount of waste generated during construction.
  2. Reduce disposal fees and construction costs.
  3. 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 – Used”).

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 landfill.

Material Exchanges
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

  1. Reuse materials.
  2. Save landfill space.
  3. Save energy.
  4. 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 possible.
  • 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 figure.

Best Pollution Prevention Practices

  1. Reduce disposal fees and overall construction costs through recycling.
  2. 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 mixed wastes.
  • 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 graphics.
  • 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