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January 2007

Construction & demolition recycling legislation needed

California and Massachusetts are the only two states with legislation and regulations for construction and demolition waste and requirements for recycling those materials.

While the federal government can play a role in this dossier, it is a state jurisdiction. Efforts are being made on both the federal and state levels, as well as municipal, to have legislation enacted to improve recycling rates for C&D and to create infrastructure for processing and to create markets for these materials.

In California, the guidelines promoting the purchase of recycleable materials should include C&D materials, according to the CMRA.

California has had legislation since 2000/2001. In Massachusetts the disposal ban for landfills applies to concrete, asphalt, wood, metal and OCC, including brick, block and similar materials.

William Turley, the executive director of the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA), is seeing legislation spring up at the municipal level.

“The City of Chicago has a C&D ordinance,” he says. “Right now you have to recycle 25 percent and it is going up to 50 percent of a building that you demolish. This is not a problem in the Chicago area because there is a lot of concrete and metals that can be recycled.”

On the question of whether there should be legislation in general, Turley replied: “It’s a qualified ‘yes’, but we need to see a recycling infrastructure before we require it. If there is nowhere for the hauler to drop it off to be recycled and the recycler doesn’t have a market to sell to, what is the point? Establish a market demand and I promise you we are going to get a lot more material that can be recycled.

“Legislation won’t hurt and we do appreciate the effort and the intent, but we suggest that government agencies also require that their procurement officers specify the use of recycled products in RFPs,” he adds. “When they need new roads, they should require the use of recycled aggregates and road base products as long as it meets the specifications and if the cost is the same price or cheaper compared to natural aggregates.”

The CMRA is asking the California government, which has guidelines that promote the purchase of recyclable materials, to include C&D materials as a 12th item.

Even in California where there are annual procurement requirements for recycled products, many of these goals are not met.

“I would prefer to call it ignore,” says Turley, “but at least it is a start and in the correct direction. That is what we would like to see in all jurisdictions, at least the intent.”

The Federal Highway Administration, which annually finances thousands of road building projects across the nation, says Turley, can play a major role in promoting recycled products via its power of the purse.

“They are intrigued by the idea that when they send money to support a project that there is a requirement to use recycled materials,” he says. “It doesn’t necessarily mean recycled aggregate, it could also be coal ash in concrete and foundry sand. We are finding many members of that industry have started to do some recycling of their own. They realize there is a market and they can make money, and that their customers are starting to acquire it because of the specifications in the Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which specifies the use of recycled materials.”

Another benefit to using recycled road building materials is that it reduces imports from Mexico and Canada, which creates jobs at home, as well as improving the tax base.

Several landfills, such as one in Columbus, Ohio, are beginning to recycle materials for customers that need to secure LEED points.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is preparing workshops on how to recycle C&D and the CMRA is doing training for construction waste management.

The policy of using recycled C&D could also be applied to federally-funded building construction, but this could be more difficult and the recycled materials must meet specifications set forth in building codes.

While Turley doubts that the federal government will establish standards for recycled C&D materials, including a will to do so and the many local standards that exist, he believes that states can play a role in setting regional standards.

“Massachusetts is a small state surrounded by other small states and relatively speaking, the trucking is cheap,” he says. “Its neighbors are watching very closely to see what happens with the disposal ban and what they have to do in response to it – maybe it would be to erect similar bans. A state regulatory group of all the DEPs and EPAs got together and I understand this has been a topic of conversation.”

There are approximately 3,000 firms in the United States that handle C&D, including concrete and asphalt recyclers and mixed C&D. But Turley says his industry does not have enough clout despite an ongoing lobbying effort.

“We are not as well funded and staffed as some of the competing interests - the waste industry -sometimes they are allies, and the natural products industry, mining, aggregates and wood,” he says.

Turley counters the view that recycled products do not meet specifications.

“Rock has been around for millions of years,” he says. “In the last 25 years, the rock in concrete has not deteriorated. Recycled aggregates do meet the same specifications as natural products. The California Department of Transportation uses recycled materials all the time. Anecdotal evidence says that recycled aggregates as road base products are superior to natural and are also cheaper or at least the same price.”

At nearly 140 million tons annually, concrete is the most recycled product in the United States.

“Although there is still some going into landfills,” says Turley, “it makes economic sense to recycle it on-site or to bring it to a recycler a few miles away rather than travel 20 miles to a landfill.”

Wood is a major component of building-related C&D stream and one that is a natural for use as a fuel in electricity-generating power plants. The CMRA expects the California Environmental Protection Agency to develop emission standards for wood fuel products.

“California has passed AB32, a green house gas bill,” says Turley. “It looks like they are going to make sure that these plants can continue to burn C&D wood and the California Integrated Waste management Board is working to make sure that the fuel market keeps growing.”

C&D wood, whether burned or landfilled, releases GHG but it also eliminates burning coal or natural gas, which would increase GHG emissions.

“California was ahead of the curve by having a C&D model ordinance passed in 2000/2001 – we have the toughest standards in the in the nation,” says Evan Edgar, the director of regulatory affairs for the California Refuse Removal Council, Northern District. “Since that time, there have been over 100 ordinances to mandate the recycling of C&D waste by 50 to 60 percent for each jurisdiction.”

Coupled with state legislation, using the bond measure, there needs to be a stronger market demand for these products. C&D materials, based on a 2003 waste disposal study, accounted for 22.7 percent of the materials ending up in landfills.

“Of that,” says Edgar, “10 percent of the 42 million tons put into the ground and still is today, is dimensional lumber. It’s unbelievable. Because of the ordinances for the facilities, we have infrastructure in place to deal with it.

“Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed the California Bioenergy Action Plan,” he adds, “which brings additional renewable power on-line, which is creating a market demand to move more wood chips from urban landfills to biomass plants.

“Currently there are about 28 biomass plants in California which produce 600 megawatts and divert about 4 million tons of biomass from urban waste, forestry and agriculture. The governor has accelerated our green energy portfolio to get more green power.”

This has translated into a call for 350 megawatts by 2010, which will divert another 2.5 million tons of biomass to biomass plants over the next 3 years and which will create the demand to divert C&D wood waste from going into landfills. Because of this demand, prices for wood chips have increased from $18 to $21 per ton over the last year.

Furthermore, the governor has a goal for 33 percent of all power generated in the state by 2020 to be based on renewable sources.

“This means that another 7.5 million tons will need to be diverted by 2020,” says Edgar. “Every one million tons of bone dry biomass from urban forestry and agriculture is about 150 megawatts. More biomass plants are coming back on-line.”

In addition to collecting metals, more drywall is being composted and a carpet program has been introduced which ships commercial grade vinyl carpets to Georgia due a state Gold Standard for carpet.

“We’ve seen more and more of a green procurement market pull for these materials and we are finding better and more sustained markets for our diverted C&D materials,” says Edgar.

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