Chapter 13
Construction and Demolition Recycling

Construction and demolition (C&D) wastes are the debris generated during construction, renovation, and demolition projects.  These include a variety of materials such as: wood, scrap metal, tile, concrete, brick, asphalt, carpet, vinyl, laminate, sheetrock, ceiling tiles, air filters, wiring, yard waste, soil, glass, roofing materials, and insulation. Make sure to define what types of wastes are created. Most of these products are not harmful to the environment in their original state, but once adhesives, laminates, fasteners, paints, caulk, and other hazardous chemicals are applied, these same materials can leach hazardous waste from a landfill, potentially contaminating nearby soil and water sources.

 Reducing C&D debris conserves landfill space, reduces the environmental impact of manufacturing new materials, and can decrease overall building project expenses through purchase/disposal cost avoidance. Recycling construction wastes reduces disposal and landfill costs and can generate income. Assess current C&D waste management procedures on campus and determine what can be changed in order to be more sustainable.

 Many campus construction projects are controlled by outside contractors, but it is important to manage all waste generated on campus. This can be done through contract specifications and education. Work with the construction department to incorporate waste reduction language into contracts that require projects to reduce, reuse, and recycle all waste generated by construction and demolition. Create an educational brochure outlining local options for reuse and recycling. Encourage construction project managers to consider donating items such as lockers and cabinets for reuse during the demolition process or to reuse existing items in new construction/remodels. Constantly look for opportunities to reduce waste generated from campus construction projects, reuse materials, and maximize recycling of those materials that cannot be reduced or reused.

 Incorporate project waste into the campus waste stream whenever possible. For example, if there is a campus cardboard contractor, work with this contractor to provide services to C&D projects. Fees for the cardboard service may be appropriate depending on the volume of material that is generated at the C&D site. Offer on-site paper and bottles/cans recycling for free to the construction company. This goodwill gesture will indirectly encourage the contractor participation in C&D recycling of.

 When drawing up contracts, be sure to include language requiring a reporting mechanism. This serves the dual purpose of ensuring that waste is being handled appropriately and creating an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of campus recycling and waste reduction efforts. The material generated in these large projects is noticeable and the impact of waste reduction supports the recycling effort. If possible, make presentations on this issue at the pre-construction meetings as is done for fire safety and hazardous material generation. Be sure to provide contact information for further assistance. More and more contractors are seeing waste recovery as a way to save money in disposal fees.

  Remember to provide campus construction and maintenance shops with well labeled recycling bins. These areas can produce large quantities of waste and manage most campus remodel projects. Educate, educate, educate! 

Wood from C&D can be in many forms including trim ends, plywood scrap, solid lumber from cabinet and furniture construction, crates, spools, saw dust, wood chips, and shavings, plywood, oriented strand board, particle board, fiberboard, laminated beams, shingles, I joists, and treated wood such as decking, utility poles, marine pilings, and fence posts. During remodeling, wood could be in the form of items that can be reused such as finished pieces of furniture, doors, or cabinets. Recycling wood is not straightforward. Many areas have local wood recyclers. Be sure to clarify exactly which types/forms of wood are acceptable and how they must be prepared for recycling. Label collection bins and educate users on what types of material are acceptable.                 

Sawdust, chips, and shavings are easily composted with yard waste. Make sure to keep treated wood waste separate from compost. Composting operations can use ground particle board or plywood as bulking agent for compost. Dimensional lumber is often ground for landscape mulch.

Charity organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army will accept furniture and cabinets for reuse. The campus carpentry shop may already be reusing cabinets and doors on campus on a regular basis. The local landfill might have a section specifically designated for C&D recycling. There also might be local companies that accept wood for recycling. Another option is to find a company that accepts scrap wood for use as a biofuel.

 Additionally, work with the Campus Grounds Department to recover usable wood from campus restoration and tree cutting that can be milled for campus construction projects. 

 See also Chapter 11: Special Materials, Chemical and Hazardous Wastes.

 Land-Clearing Debris
Land-clearing debris contains a lot of wood as trees. Trees can be sent to wood processing plants to manufacture particle board, chip core, or laminates, animal bedding, mulch, or decorative landscaping material, pulp and paper products or composting material. Dirt is also sometimes classified as debris in the C&D process and is often sent to landfills to use as cover material or to other construction sites for use as fill. Other debris, like shrubs, grass, and flower material should be composted. Check with local forest product processors to determine if there is any opportunity to compost and/or reuse the material.

 Asphalt Pavement and Shingles, Brick and Concrete
Concrete is made up of cement, water, and aggregate, such as crushed stone, sand, or grit. Mixed with cement, crushed concrete can be used for projects that call for a cement stabilized base. This recycled material is less expensive than crushed rock alternatives, and it helps preserve the environment by reducing the need to mine new materials. Larger pieces of crushed concrete can be used as rip rap or 3 to 5 bull rock.

 Brick can be taken to a landfill where it is crushed to make roadbed material around the landfill. Brick can also be reused if whole brick is intact. Contractors frequently incorporate recycled asphalt paving into new asphalt mixes. Asphalt shingles are recycled into new shingles or pavement products. There is likely to be local company or landfill that will recycle these products.

 Ceiling Tiles
Ceiling tiles generally are easier to recycle if a large volume has already been generated. The Armstrong Commercial Ceiling & Walls Recycling Program will pay freight costs for shipments of 30,000 ft2 or more anywhere in the U.S or Canada, but campuses will be required to pay shipping fees for smaller amounts. (See Resources section for a link to the Armstrong website.) In order to avoid these fees by generating enough material, communicate with other institutions that may have ceiling tiles that need to be disposed of as well.

 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Piping
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a difficult material to recycle because of the high quantity of additives that are used during the production process. It also has the potential to interfere with recycling other resins if commingled because of PVC's unique chemical makeup. [24] While identifying a local facility with the capacity to recycle PVC may be difficult, there are a number of companies that are now accepting PVC for recycling. (See Resources for the Vinyl Recycling Directory URL.)

Scrap Metal, Paint Cans, Aerosol Cans
Steel has the highest recycling rate of any material in North America; more steel is recycled annually than aluminum, paper, glass, and plastic combined. [25] All steel has recycled content, but the proportions of recycled content depend on the type of steel-making furnace used in the manufacturing process. There are two kinds of steel making furnaces: basic oxygen furnaces (BOF) and electric arc furnaces (EAF). The basic oxygen furnace uses 25-35% recycled steel to manufacture new steel. The electric arc furnace uses more than 80% recycled steel. [26]

Recycling scrap metal from a construction site is usually a day-to day occurrence. Provide campus construction managers with a permanent scrap metal dumpster for smaller construction jobs. This dumpster can be put on a schedule or called in when full, thereby establishing a very economical way to handle this type of waste. Local scrap dealers often have collection systems in place for large scale scrap recycling. The material is cheaper to collect than garbage and often yields revenue, making it a valuable financial and environmental asset to a college recycling program.

 Hazardous Waste
Campus construction projects generate notable amounts of hazardous waste including asbestos, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), lead, oil, and lab chemicals. Make sure all hazardous waste is handled properly during deconstruction. Many campuses have Environmental Health and Safety Departments to manage these types of wastes. See Chapter 11: Special Materials, Chemical and Hazardous Waste for more detailed disposal information and the hazardous wastes Resources section listed below.


 General Construction and Demolition Recycling Sites

 California Integrated Waste Management Board Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling

Construction and Demolition Recycling

Construction Materials Recycling Association

EPA Construction and Demolition Materials 

EPA Software for Environmental Awareness (SEAHOME) 

Green Goat 

Healthy Building Network 


EPA Wood Waste Resources 

Recycler's World- Wood Recycling 

Wood Waste Best Practices- Clean Washington Center 

Asphalt Pavement and Shingles, Brick and Concrete  

Asphalt Recycling and Reclaiming Association 

California Integrated Waste Management Board- Asphalt Roofing Shingles Recycling  

Concrete Recycling 

Earth Care Recycling, LLC- Hard Rock, Concrete, Asphalt & Brick Crushing                                               

Recycling Concrete- Concrete Network 

Shingle Recycling 

Ceiling Tiles  

Armstrong Commercial Ceiling & Walls Recycling Program 


California Integrated Waste Management Board- Wallboard (Drywall) Recycling 

Construction Materials Recycling Association Drywall Recycling                                                                      

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) 

Earth 911 PVC Information 

Vinyl Recycling Directory

 Hazardous Wastes 

Bethlehem Apparatus Company, Inc. (Mercury Recovery/Recycling) 

EPA Hazardous Waste Site

EPA Household Hazardous Waste

 EPA Software for Environmental Awareness- Mercury in Buildings