Building Industry’s Vast Amount of Debris

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In an earlier post, I mentioned the massive amount (100+ million tons) of construction and demolition debris that is sent to landfills every year in the United States. That is a ridiculously large amount and thankfully, there are increasingly more programs emerging to help combat this issue.

According to the U.S. EPA, construction and demolition debris is generated when new structures (residential and non-residential) are built and when existing structures are renovated or demolished. Components typically include concrete, asphalt, wood, metal, gypsum wallboard, glass, plastics, and roofing. Public works projects, such as streets and highways, bridges, piers, and dams, are also included. Many state definitions of C & D debris also include trees, stumps, earth, and rock from the clearing of construction sites.

Building demolitions account for 48% of the waste stream, or 65 million tons per year; renovations account for 44%, or 60 million tons per year; and 8%, or 11 million tons per year, is generated at construction sites.

It’s clear that this is an issue that must be dealt with because between 2000 to 2030, 27% of existing buildings will be replaced and 50% of the total building stock will be constructed. Source reduction, deconstruction (as opposed to demolition), reuse, and recycling regulations do not even exist in every state as of yet. Landfilling is the most common C & D waste management method, but with any hope and realization of our impact on the environment, better solutions will become a mandatory part of construction and demolition activities.

A few thousand recycling facilities for C & D waste already exist and many new products incorporate recycled materials, so it seems we are on our way to a more efficient processing of the debris we generate. You can support these solutions by purchasing products with recycled content and minimal packaging, and by requesting manufacturers to follow suit as well.

Source: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Tag(s): Going Green, Green Building

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