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Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling

Use the C&D State Locator to find state regulations and local assistance.

A US EPA study found that the construction and demolition (C&D) sector generates more than 500 million tons annually of building-related C&D debris. Most of this material accumulates in landfills, however, experts estimate that 75% of the waste stream is potentially reusable or recyclable. Recycling this waste will help to prolong our supply of natural resources and save money in the process. Common C&D wastes that are recycled include carpet, wood, aggregate, paint, metal, wallboard, and plastic. Other types of C&D recyclable materials are appliances, asphalt, brick, concrete, drywall, fixtures, flooring, gravel, green waste, OCC-cardboard, pallets, paper, pipe, roofing, sand, shingles, and soil.

Three recycling methods available to construction/demolition contractors include the following:

  • Mixed material collection - Recyclable materials are transported from the job site, sorted at a designated facility, and sent to processors for recycling.

  • Source separation - Similar materials are separated from other wastes at the job site by category (such as wood, metal, and concrete) and sent to processors for recycling.

  • On-site processing - Recyclable materials are processed on site and made ready for reuse.

Markets for Recycled Material

There are many options and applications of the recyclable material generated by building/demolition sites. These include reuse as building materials, use as an industrial fuel source, mulch in composting operations, animal bedding, and soil amendment. For example, material such as gypsum board (which many landfills are prohibiting from entering) can be ground up and used in many ways such as recycled content for new drywall.

Cost Benefits

There are numerous cost benefits that are resulting from C&D recycling including: reduced project disposal costs, reduced transportation costs, reduced cost of new construction materials, reduced labor costs (less material being handled), and the elimination of the need for new materials for road base, mulch, and landscaping.

More Resources

Construction and Demolition Debris State Resource Locator. Many states have active programs that encourage C&D waste recycling.  Use our tool to locate regulatory information and other compliance assistance, lists of C&D landfills, and pollution prevention resources for your state.

Sustainable Management of Construction and Demolition Materials (US EPA). EPA promotes a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) approach that identifies certain C&D materials as commodities that can be used in new building projects, thus avoiding the need to mine and process virgin materials.

Construction and Demolition Materials Guidance. The RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program has worked with state and local officials, salvage and reuse outlets, contractors, construction & demolition (C&D) processors and haulers, architects, and other stakeholders to develop consensus-based guidance on how to increase C&D materials reuse and recycling.

Beneficial Use Portal. This web site is a compact, content-rich resource covering beneficial use of C&D and industrial byproducts.

The State of the Practice of Construction and Demolition Material Recovery (2017). This report summarizes the current state of the practice regarding C&D recovery in the continental the United States, and the economic, community, and material-specific factors that influence the rate of C&D recovery. 

Recycling Today. A magazine dedicated to various types of recycling.

National Demolition Association. The National Demolition Association is a non-profit trade organization representing more than 1,000 U.S. and Canadian companies which offer standard demolition services, as well as a full range of demolition-related services and products.

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