Recycling Construction Materials: Building Re-use Advice

Trusted Construction Materials Recycling Advice, Landfill Tips, Leftover Building Items, Property

Recycling Construction Materials

31 Oct 2019

Every construction and restoration project results in left over materials. What happens to this material means the difference between saving the environment and over stuffing landfill sites. Although many of the items left over may be too small to be used in any other project, the majority of waste can be put to good use.

Recycling Construction Materials
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Large contractors consider discarding leftover material as part of the cost of doing business. An unfortunate expense they must endure. However, this is not the case. Leftover materials can be used in other projects or resold to contractors dealing with smaller projects where crushed concrete, small pieces of wood or drywall or half buckets of paint can come in quite handy.

Many contractors feel a bit overwhelmed by the thought of recycling. This form of waste management involves converting construction materials and other waste into reusable products. It helps reduce energy use, consumption of new, raw materials, air pollution, landfill space and water pollution. However, for large contractors, separating recyclable materials can be very time-consuming, even though they stand to save a great deal of money in the long run.

Plastic, concrete, drywall, cardboard, pavement and asphalt shingles are the most common recycled materials. About 70 to 95 percent of material discarded at residential or commercial sites can be recycled. These may have been purchased as new materials, new materials made from recycled items or items recovered from a demolition project.

When handled carefully, a demolition project can be a great source for construction materials. Any wood, steel or other building supplies can be cut to the right size to fit a new project without the need of melting it down and reshaping it into new material.

Estimates show that if all asphalt and concrete removed from old roads and highways for resurfacing was recycled, the energy savings would be the equivalent to one billion gallons of gasoline or one million less cars on the road. A large part of the energy savings would be due to decreased use of natural resources, like mining for fresh crushed stone or extracting and refining petroleum. Recycling also keeps construction and demolition materials out of landfills. Experts suggest that poorly managed landfills could result in operating problems and groundwater contamination.

Options for Recycling and Reusing Construction Materials

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, there are many economic benefits for recycling. In addition to reducing the cost of buying new materials, scrap materials can be sold or reused right at the construction site, reducing the amount of waste to be hauled away. Some recycling companies will charge less to haul or accept materials for recycling, especially if the items are separated into metal, plastic, concrete and cardboard.

There are many markets for construction and demolition materials. Not all recycling companies are equipped to accept all materials, so a quick search of local recycling operators may be needed to determine what materials to take where. Some companies will accept mixed materials, however, if separating waste right at the job site is possible, it would be easier for the contractor to determine what materials can be saved and used in the current project.

Recycled concrete can be used by a variety of companies, such as landscapers or driveway installers. The concrete is crushed into stones or ground for finer uses. Because it is commonly recycled, there are a number of facilities accepting used concrete.

Asphalt pavement can usually be melted down and reused right at the construction site. In some cases, it is simply crushed and used as filler. Asphalt shingles are also commonly ground down and recycled into asphalt payment or new shingles. Creating the binding tar from oil is very energy-intensive. Recycling these materials means huge energy savings.

Clean, untreated wood that can’t be used in any other projects, can be milled into lumber, or chipped to make chipboard, or ground down for boiler fuel or mulch. Wood containing preservatives or lead paint are not much use in any market and should be discarded according to local guidelines.

Steel, aluminum, and copper are commonly found at a construction, renovation and demolition sites. Large amounts of cardboard, used to package building materials brought to the site, are also very common. These are the easiest materials to dispose of because there are numerous, well-established facilities prepared to recycle these items. Local scrap yards often pay quite well for scrap metal.

Plastics have long been recycled into all sorts of new items, including recycled plastic toilet partitions. One plastic toilet partition, consisting of a door, a panel and a pilaster, requires approximately 1,472 plastic water bottles. Many recycled plastic bathroom partitions are now made of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. Partitions made from solid HDPE (high density polyethylene) recycled plastic are actually among the most durable, providing a high level of scratch and dent resistance.

Challenges of Recycling

There are many obvious reasons for recycling construction materials, but in reality the rules and regulations, construction companies and even the clients are becoming stricter. Every truck load of waste has to be documented and all materials must be accounted for and separated into five categories: metal, wood, concrete, cardboard and plastic.

On demolition or remodeling projects, many of the existing walls, electrical wiring, plumbing and hvac installations can be left in place instead of stripping everything to the bare bones and hauling the waste off to the landfill. This is one form of recycling that doesn’t cost anything and saves the construction company plenty of time.

However, building codes define what must be torn out and changed, and that is the material that gets recycled or trashed. Some jobs have much stricter regulations than others and fully document how to dispose of debris. Construction is an ever-changing business, making progress and moving forward everyday to increase speed, efficiency and be more eco friendly. Recycling construction materials is a huge step towards a cleaner, brighter future for the entire planet.

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