Construction Waste Management
Responsible management of construction waste is an important part of sustainable building. Construction waste management minimizes the amount of construction waste or demolition debris that ends up in our landfills. The EPA estimated in 1998 that 25% to 40% of the nationís solid waste was generated from construction and demolition.
Disposal of construction waste has many implications that are not always apparent to building professionals. There are fewer construction and demolition disposal sites today than in years past which create increased costs of trucking and fuel consumption. The cost of monitoring these sites and cleaning up contaminated sites places a huge drain on public funds.
The EPA also estimates that only 20% of C & D waste is being recycled which leaves a lot of room for improvement. The majority of this waste can be reused on site, salvaged for reuse elsewhere, or recycled. A large portion of construction waste is probably cardboard which can be recycled. Contractors can also buy in bulk and request minimal packing materials. Plastic waste like barrels and buckets can sometimes be returned and reused. Contractors might also institute a buy back agreement with suppliers for unused materials so that they will not be wasted. Of course, the old adage of measure twice, cut once will also reduce waste. Most things used in construction from landscaping waste to the construction materials can be recycled in some way. By working with local recycling facilities and separating waste into its recyclable components, contractors can do a lot towards reducing waste.
In the case of demolition projects, deconstruction is they way to go. Tearing down a building the order in which it would have been built allows greater opportunity to salvage materials that can be reused. Even if old plumbing and wiring cannot be reused, it can be recycled. My husbandís grandfather dealt in scrap metal for years and he could often be seen bidding on old wiring and plumbing materials. It was great physical therapy after he suffered a stroke. He spent hours taking things apart and separating the metals. Some demolition companiesí auction salvaged materials on the spot while others send them to an architectural salvage facility to be sold at a later date.
Responsible construction waste management is essential to keep so much reusable material out of the landfills. It just takes a little planning and many companies are including clauses about disposal in their contracts with builders. If everyone works together, there will be much less construction debris in the future.
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