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MAY 2007

More American cities implement measures to divert C&D debris

More and more of America’s larger cities are placing a greater emphasis on reducing the amount of construction and demolition debris (C&D) from the waste stream in order to reduce annual landfill dumping fees, extend the life of existing landfills and to recycle materials that can be re-used.

“Last year we passed a C&D debris recycling ordinance that mandates that large construction sites recycle 50 percent of their waste,” says Sadhu Johnston, the City of Chicago’s Commissioner for the Environment.

Passed about 18 months ago and coming into effect six months later, Johnston says the ordinance is proving successful.

“We were at 25 percent of the recycling mandated last year and now we are at 50 percent,” he says. “At the end of your project, before you get your certificate of occupancy that allows you to move into the building, you need to bring in your documentation that demonstrates you met the goals of the recycling rate.

“What is interesting is that some of the construction and demolition companies in Chicago are expanding and investing in equipment to accommodate the material,” he adds, “and developers and builders are getting interested and starting to divert their waste. Overall, we already had thousands of tons of material diverted as a result of this. It is definitely working to keep to material out of the landfill.”

Business is booming at the C&D recycling plant built by Norcal Waste Systems Inc. in San Francisco four years ago.

“We’re sending 565 to 585 tons through that facility six days a week and recycling approximately 60 to 65 percent of that material,” says Robert Reed, Norcal’s director of corporate communications. “Most cities don’t recycle a lot of construction debris. We’ve just added a fourth shift.”

The plant, located adjacent to the refuse transfer station in San Francisco, processes wood, metal, sheetrock, concrete, asphalt, rigid plastics and other materials.

These materials are then sent to compost facilities, scrap yards and biomass plants. Concrete and asphalt are crushed and used as road base.

Reed adds that construction companies are cooperating with the program.

For a city or county to establish a successful recycling infrastructure, Reed says that “passion” is essential.

“We’ve demonstrated that if you have the desire, it can be done a daily basis,” he says. “We have 12 separate and distinct recycling programs just in San Francisco and you won’t find another city in the United States with as many. Can this be done in Chicago or New York City? Of course it could.”

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