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Construction and Demolition Wastes

(See endnotes 25, 26, 27)

Construction activities and demolition of structures or parts of structures produce a significant amount of waste, which contributes a substantial amount of materials to the solid waste stream in a given area. Reducing the waste and recycling materials can help conserve landfill space, reduce the impact of producing new materials, and decrease the impact of these wastes on the environment.

Construction and landfill waste includes many different categories each with its own potential concerns, some of which may include the production of hazardous materials. These categories include asphalt from paving and shingles; earth of various types and levels of contamination; electrical fixtures and wiring; insulation consisting of asbestos, different types of plastics, and fiberglass; masonry and rubble consisting of bricks, cinderblocks, concrete, excess mortar, rock, stone, and tile; metal of various types consisting of aluminum siding and ducts, iron, lead, mercury from electrical switches, steel, copper, and cast-iron pipes, copper wiring, etc.; paint containers and paint products; petroleum products consisting of brake fluid, oil, contaminated fuel tanks, petroleum distillates, and waste oil and grease; roofing materials consisting of asbestos shingles, cement cans, other roofing shingles, and tarpaper; vinyl consisting of siding, flooring, doors, and windows: drywall and plaster; wood from numerous sources within the structure, trees, and bushes; wood contaminants consisting of adhesives and resins, laminates, paints and coatings, preservatives, stains, and varnishes, chemical additives; large and small appliances; furniture of all types; linoleum and carpeting: pesticide, herbicide, and other chemical containers; a variety of different types of light bulbs, etc.

As an example of the distribution by weight of these construction and demolition wastes in categories in the state of Vermont in 1 year, wood accounted for 26% of the waste, concrete 14%, metals 5%, asphalt 46%, and other wastes 9%.

Best Practices in Disposal of Construction and Demolition Wastes

  • • Consider if the structure or facility can be reused for another purpose instead of tearing it down.
  • • Develop a waste management and recovery plan for all facets of the project. Determine which individuals will be responsible for each part of the project in eliminating waste and recycling materials. By contract make it the responsibility of the subcontractors to remove their own waste in an acceptable fashion and take it to an approved landfill for disposal.
  • • Reuse materials, either old ones from the structure or portions of new ones which would have gone to waste, where feasible.
  • • Put all materials which are safe to reuse but no longer usable for this project, in a special site preferably at the curb where salvage people might take them for free for their own use, before committing them to approved disposal areas.
  • • Have co-mingled materials which may include recyclables taken to a special separation center where the usable items will be removed and the remainder taken to an approved disposal area.
  • • Remove all leftover supplies to an appropriate storage area to be used for other projects.
  • • Computerize inventory management to allow construction crews to find what they are looking for rapidly and cut down on oversupply.
  • • Establish a take-back policy as part of the contract to purchase materials, with manufacturers, especially for carpet, padding, drywall, and vinyl, for these companies to either recycle these items or dispose of them in an appropriate manner.
  • • Hire an architect who is known to utilize techniques of waste reduction, reuse of materials on-site, recycling, and using the most innovative new practices to reduce all forms of waste.
  • • Create waste reduction through an efficient structure-framing program using a modular approach where sections of the framing are brought on to the construction site instead of building it there.
  • • Before demolition of a structure, strip it of all materials that can be reused or recycled and sell the material or donate it to organizations that will use it to provide better housing for the poor and homeless. An example would be the reuse center of Habitat for Humanity, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • • Consider utilizing the program of the Department of Defense decision matrix to help evaluate alternatives to the traditional demolition of structures, which has been recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce levels of solid waste while being cost-effective. (See endnote 27.)
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