Chicago implements new recycling rules for C&D
by David Fournier, Jr.
In December of 2004, Chicago announced
that, effective January 2006, contractors will be required to
recycle 25% of all construction and demolition (C&D) debris
generated in the city. That number will jump to 50% by 2007. Chicago
defines C&D debris as “non-hazardous, non-contaminated
solid waste resulting from construction, renovation, and demolition
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency estimates that in 1996, 136 million tons of C&D waste
was generated. In addition, C&D debris accounts for almost
30% of all solid waste produced in the U.S., most of which is
disposed of in landfills. With large numbers like this, it’s
easy to see how these regulations could have major economic and
environmental impacts. Economically speaking, the recycling of
this debris could be used to avoid hefty tipping fees. It may
also be a source of additional revenue for contractors. Environmentally,
it means that fewer virgin resources are consumed, and the need
for landfill space could be reduced.
Chicago is the first to formally
recognize the growing trend of C&D debris recycling in the
U.S. Depending on local factors like tipping fees and market value
of the recovered materials, recycling may be cheaper than disposal.
In fact, not only is recycling cheaper, it could potentially generate
revenue that could be put back into a project. C&D Debris
Recycling magazine estimates that currently there are around 3,500
facilities nationwide that recycle C&D debris, and that this
number is growing quickly.
However, some barriers to C&D
recycling do exist. The cost of collection, sorting, and processing
material, and the material’s relatively low value sometimes
deter contractors from recycling. Not only that, but the recovery
of the recyclable debris is very time consuming. Yet, the costs
of incineration and dumping are increasing because of the need
for control technologies to prevent pollution.
has become quite the controversial issue over the past several
years. Studies have shown that people in the areas surrounding
waste to energy plants have unacceptably high levels of dioxins
and other related toxins in their blood. These toxins appear in
the local food, air, and wildlife, amongst other things. All of
this has led to the need for more and more expensive controls
to both prevent the escape of these toxins into the environment,
and to dispose of the toxic ash in a safe and ethical way. The
need to control and contain dioxins, nitric oxide, mercury, and
other toxic metals means that the costs of incineration is rising,
and soon it may cease to be an economically sound choice for contractors
looking to dispose of their C & D debris.
Landfills have also become more
expensive for those looking to dispose of their C&D debris.
Many landfills don’t want C&D debris because it tends
to be bulky and it takes up more space than most household waste.
Also, many landfills recognize that C&D debris could be recycled,
and raise their tipping fees accordingly.
In addition to not wanting C&D
debris, landfills now are being required to implement expensive
air pollution and ground water controls to prevent environmental
damage. Some landfills have managed to make a business out of
recycling the emitted gases for energy, but they are relatively
few. Most merely burn the gases in an external flare. Sites are
raising their tipping fees in order to cover the costs for these
Across the country, incineration
and tipping fees for C&D debris are rising. The increased
cost of disposing of debris by dumping or incineration should
encourage contractors to recycle the debris generated by their
projects. Not only is it an environmentally sound decision, it
is becoming the economically sound decision as well. If the trend
of increasing costs regarding landfills and incineration continue,
look for more and more regulation regarding the recycling of C&D
debris to come.