Do you want to reduce waste in your construction company? If YES, here are 20 tips on how to recycle construction materials and best places to recycle them.

According to the Construction Materials Recycling Association, construction and demolition waste are the largest sources of trash in the United States. According to the association, 325 million tons of recoverable construction debris is generated in the united states alone each year.

In fact, construction waste accounts for about one third of all refuse nationwide. With these statistics in mind, it becomes obvious that even little efforts to recycle construction material debris will yield significant impact.

What Gets Recycled and How?

Due to the nature of a project, the construction materials that can be recycled may include:

  • Masonry for reuse in your construction or for crushing to make road bases
  • Windows, doors, and roofing (where reusable) for use in other habitations
  • Appliances and fixtures, including sinks and baths, for refitting elsewhere
  • Lumber and wood products (where reusable) for reuse, or conversion to mulch or biomass fuel
  • Metals for smelting and conversion into other products
  • Vegetation and trees for replanting if feasible, or for biomass fuel
  • Cardboard and paper for pulping
  • Plastic crates/container, bags and sheets (where reusable)

It is good to note that some construction materials when disposed in a landfill can have a negative impact on the environment. For instance, when lead comes in contact with water, it makes the water toxic. Plasterboard in landfills releases hydrogen sulfide, which is a poisonous gas. This means that there is a need to find a safer way of disposing of these materials.

Whenever you process hazardous waste properly, you keep it out of the landfill and minimize toxic build-up in our environment. Substances such as asbestos, latex paint, chemical solvents, adhesives, lead-based paint need to be treated with care to reduce their impact on the environment. Granted, it takes more time and care to dismantle and preserve reusable parts, but the resale price alone will make it worth your while.

Why Does Recycling Building Materials Matter?

If you think about the sheer volume of materials used throughout the building process, recycling building components makes logical sense. Reusing materials:

  • Reduces the demand for new resources
  • Cuts costs related to the production and transportation of new materials and
  • Eliminates the need to send waste to landfill sites

Here are some tips on where and how to recycle construction materials;

20 Tips on Where and How to Recycle Construction Materials

1. Getting Started: if you are planning a demolition or building project, and are you confused on where to get specific information for your locality, the best places to go for information are Your local Builders’ Association and your state or provincial environmental agency. These organizations can help you determine best practices for your region, plan your project and help you ensure your project adheres to government regulations.

2. Build It Back Into the New Building: one of the cleverest ways to recycle construction waste is to simply integrate it back into the new building or the new building site. Some of this may happen naturally. For instance, in remodeling projects, walls are not necessarily demolished. They may simply be redecorated, moved, or reconfigured. Lumber cut-offs in wood-framed constructions may be useful for fire blocking or as spacers.

3. Recycling Wood and lumber: there are many ways in which wood can be reused. For instance, by re-milling old lumber and timber, contractors can build new floors, paneling, doors and windows. Builders can also reuse wood to construct new barns and fences. In addition, it is very possible for machines  to easily grind waste wood so that it can later be turned into particleboard.

The U.S. government estimates nearly 1 billion board-feet in lumber can be salvaged each year. Much of that wood is high quality and includes large timber frames. If builders recycled or reused all the wood in a 2,000-square-foot home, it would generate up to 6,000 board-feet in reusable lumber, saving 33 trees. In addition, recycling would reduce the volume of wood taking up landfill space by at least 8,420 cubic feet (238 cubic meters)

4. Build to Standard Dimensions: when carrying out a building project, it is best to use building materials supplied in standard measurements. This is because, the less you have to adapt or cut, the less wastage you will incur – not to mention the time and effort saved. Framing layouts can be planned to use standard wood lengths, for instance. Standard dimensions also make it easier to reuse any materials you have left over.

5. Recycling Drywall: drywalls are a very Integral part of any building. Drywall is made of gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of paper. It is the prime material used in interior construction and home renovation work. The United States produces about 15 million tons of new drywall annually in the same vein; about 25 percent of all construction waste is made up of drywall.

Fortunately, drywall is easy to recycle and reuse. Builders can use scraps of it to plug openings in walls, and workers can also use bits of it to fashion forms to support wet concrete. Drywall can also be turned into agricultural products. Specifically, drywall contains boron. Although boron is known as a fire retardant, it’s also a plant nutrient.

Landscapers can mix the element with soil to provide plants with a source of nutrient-rich soil. In addition, the paper that surrounds the gypsum can also be added to soil, recycled into paperboard or new wallboard, or composted for fertilizer.

6. Locate Your Local Recycling Center: locate a recycling center that is local so as not to take too much time, effort, and petrol to transport construction waste for recycling. When you have found a suitable local recycling center, then you will have to find out what they take and when they open.

Then add necessary trips to your overall construction schedule and planning to minimize overall impact. For example, you can take waste to the recycling center on the way out when you go to fetch new building materials.

7. Practice Deconstruction Instead of Demolition: there are organizations that exist in some area that are specialized in removing reusable items without damage for reuse in social housing projects. There may also be tax advantages to the customer who is paying for the overall project. If this is not possible, an alternative is a front yard sale of such items during the construction project. Radiators, grates, piping, appliances, and fittings in sufficiently good condition can all qualify.

8. Recycling Glass and Windows: if possible, it is always advisable to reuse old windows in any construction and renovation project. Even though recycling windows and other glass products might seem like a good thing, this is hardly ever done by builders due to the fact that glass is cheap to make.

The main ingredient for producing glass (sand) is readily available. In addition, glass makers have very precise requirements for their products, and recycled glass sometimes doesn’t fit well within the specifications of these products. While all glass is basically the same thing, there are subtle differences depending on what the glass is used for.

Also, window glass includes many parts, such as aluminum , vinyl, insulating spacers and lamination layers that need to be removed before the window can be recycled. It is usually very time consuming and costly to remove these parts.

9. Calculate the Savings: in addition to helping the planet, recycling construction waste can also be economical, provide better prices to customers, or both. In buying fewer new materials, recycling waste without having to transport it, or reselling it where is has market value, there are positive economic as well as environmental consequences. Good construction accounting tools will help you to manage the savings to be made through recycling.

Even though deconstruction, the process of tearing down a house while salvaging and recycling building materials, is initially more expensive and time consuming than outright demolition, it is far better for the environment. In deconstructing a building, workers save and reuse whatever materials they can instead of taking the debris to a local landfill. In fact, Habitat plans to sell what they retrieve so others can reuse the materials.

10. Recycling Steel: steel is an invaluable component for building skyscrapers, high-rise apartment buildings, bridges and other structures. Americans recycle more than 65 million tons of scrap steel each year. Recycled steel maintains its strength and durability.

As a matter of fact, all steel framing contains at least 28 percent of recycled steel. To build a typical 2,000-square-foot house, workers will use an amount of steel equal to about six junked automobiles. Steel girders, trusses and pilings can all be recycled from construction sites.

11. Recycling Roofing Shingles: on a yearly bases, at least 11 million tons of roofing shingle waste is generated in the United States. Most of that waste — 10 million tons — comes from the shingles off of old homes. Unlike many construction materials, roofing shingles are very durable. They can last nearly 20 or 30 years before they need to be replaced.

Most shingles are made from a felt mat infused with asphalt (which is made from crude oil) and tiny bits of rock. These shingles are hardy, and can withstand scorching heat and bone-chilling temperatures. But when they are removed from a roof, they can be ground down and actually used in pavement projects and as patches for potholes. Shingles can also be recycled into new shingles and sometimes processed into fuel.

12. Recycling Landscaping waste: When you’re cutting brush from your backyard, or removing trees and other vegetation to make room for a new house, recycling landscape waste should be an important part of your building plan.

Many states and local communities have banned landscape waste from local landfills, so contractors are pretty much required to reuse or recycle the waste. Contractors can use most yard waste as mulch to place around the yard as a landscape accent and to reduce weed growth. Homeowners can also compost most landscape waste, or dig up and replant vegetation such as hydrangeas, hostas and rosebushes.

13. Recycling Appliances: If your construction project includes a major kitchen addition or renovation, and the homeowners are purchasing new appliances, there are a few things you can do with the old ones including the following:

If the appliances are still in working order, you can consider donating them to such organizations as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill. You can also gift your old appliances to a friend, family member or someone in your community. If the appliances no longer work, find a company or recycling facility that will pick them up.

14. Recycling Concrete and Masonry: it is very easy to recycle concrete and masonry. As a matter of fact, about 140 million tons of it is crushed and reused each year. In times past, people used to see concrete as just plain garbage that has to be disposed of.

Nowadays, concrete debris is routinely recycled and reused, saving builders millions of dollars and freeing up space in landfills. Each year, construction companies recycle 140 million tons of concrete in the United States.

When concrete and masonry rubble is removed from a construction site, the waste is taken to a crushing center for a fee. These facilities, which only accept concrete that is free of trash, wood and other materials, will crush and screen the debris to remove dirt and other particles.

It is also very possible to crush and sift concrete at the jobsite. When you have crushed the concrete, you can reuse it in pavement for roads and driveways. Recycled concrete is also a good foundation on top of which contractors can place pipes and other utilities. Landscapers also use larger pieces of concrete rubble in their work.

15. Recycling Asphalt: every year, thousands of miles of roadway are resurfaced or replaced. Builders not only use asphalt to build roads in residential neighborhoods, but also in highways, airport runways and parking lots. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that construction crews remove 90 million tons of asphalt each year from American roads. Out of that number, 90 percent is recycled and reused in repaving and reconstruction projects.

16. Recycling Copper: Copper is a very valuable material that is used for many construction purposes. The average home contains about 400 pounds of copper piping and wiring. Copper can fetch up to $3 a pound in some areas. As a matter of fact, recycling copper is so lucrative that people even go as far as stealing copper pipes and wires from construction sites.

Just like steel, when copper is recycled, it retains its strength and durability. However, many local codes require new buildings materials. For example, copper pipe and wire cannot be reused in plumbing or electrical installations so it’s more often salvaged and sold to junkyards and scrap-metal dealers to be used elsewhere.

17. Make recycling bins readily in your construction site: make sure that even in the construction site, you have a recycling bin. Sometimes the convenience factor is all that is needed.

18. Local Landfill and Recycling Regulations: Some municipalities do not accept residential construction materials, so make sure you understand proper processing and landfill rules in your area before you start. To learn what your city will remove and accept at landfills and how to prepare materials for recycling, contact your local municipality’s solid waste and recycling department or your local waste/recycling haulers

19. Where to Buy or Sell Reusable Construction Materials: you can start by searching the internet for online for local construction recycling depots. Some search suggestions include:

  • “building material recycling”
  • “recovered building materials for sale”
  • “building reclaimers”
  • “buy used building materials”

In conclusion, recycling construction and demolition materials generated at a construction site is quite important because it benefits the environment. Current estimates show that if all concrete and asphalt pavement generated annually in the United States were recycled, it would save the energy equivalent of 1 billion gallons of gasoline or the removal of more than 1 million cars from the road.

Much of this energy savings results from decreased consumption of natural resources, such as mining crushed stone or extracting and refining petroleum. In addition to energy savings, recycling also keeps materials out of landfills.

Ajaero Tony Martins