JULY 2008

ON TOPIC


Construction & Demolition

—James W. Taylor

As the amount of construction and demolition waste being generated in the United States continues to increase, finding ways to successfully divert and recycle this material is becoming more crucial.

American Recycler recently interviewed James W. Taylor, Jr., the president of the Construction Materials Recycling Association and the president of New York-based Taylor Biomass Energy, LLC, for his take on the situation and the concerns that all stakeholders should be focusing on.

Is there a need for legislation to ensure the collection and recycling of C&D material and help build up the infrastructure?

Taylor: Approximately one half of C&D is conventionally recyclable. In some cases, approximately the remaining 50 percent is sorted, separated and ground up into alternative daily cover (ADC). Therefore, C&D recycling requires a participating landfill to receive this ADC product within a reasonable transport distance. In some cases a landfill views this as reducing materials that they normally would receive at a full tipping fee out of their checkbook. Reasonable legislation could prevent this from occurring.

With the need to reduce reliance upon imported energy, is enough being done to ensure the collection of C&D wood to be used to generate biomass?

Taylor: We are in new times in both waste recycling, energy and most importantly reducing our carbon footprint. Organics (biomass; wood, paper, fiber, food, leather, textiles) is one of the largest generators of greenhouse gas (methane, 23 times more than other gases) in a landfill scenario. The U.S. EPA must initiate steps to force state governments to focus on mandating this reduction.

Is enough being done by the Federal Highway Commission and state departments of transportation to ensure that recycled materials are being purchased for road construction?

Taylor: One of the biggest drawbacks at the present time is a standard specification for recycled construction products at the Federal level. The Federal specifications for recycled products and then mandate this specification on State and local governments, if they are using Federal funds to complete the project. This same action should include a timetable for increasing the recycling product content in construction materials according to percentage of units of measurement over the next twenty years; i.e., within the next five years – material units of measurement; tons, cubic yards, should equate to 10 percent of the total tonnage for a particular item:

  • Within five years thereafter; equate to 20 percent.
  • Within five years thereafter; equate to 30 percent.
  • Within five years thereafter; equate to 40 percent.
  • Within five years thereafter; equate to 50 percent.

This concept would get us to 50 percent recycled materials, products within a 25-year period. This would be mandated if you wanted Federal funding for your project.

At the rate we are using our natural resources, especially in urban centers, we may be forced to this type of action even with no Federal requirements, simply due to financial costs.

What are the major challenges facing the C&D recycling industry?

Taylor: Recycling up until this date has been forced to compete against landfill and incinerator tipping fees. As a result, recycling has been a difficult business model to financially succeed.

Privately-owned business recyclers have not received the type of federal loans, grants and tax credits that its competitors have successfully obtained. Many legislators have offered to assist private recyclers but to this date, little has been accomplished. However, most recently, the cost of natural products with labor and transportation costs increased so dramatically, recycled products are finding their niche markets and private recyclers are fighting hard to succeed.

The amount of C&D waste per person that is being generated annually has been increasing. Is enough being done to ensure that it is being diverted away from landfills?

Taylor: The Federal government must initiate the mandate regarding organics (biomass) prohibited from entering landfills. Reduction of greenhouse gas is the challenge and this requirement will be financially paid for through the “carbon credit” market, which is just starting to unfold.

Some landfills are either refusing to accept C&D waste or charging a higher premium. How is this affecting the recycling rate of such materials?

Taylor: In the past landfills were able to justify the additional charge for C&D due to special handling. Today the demand for “organic biomass” as a fuel is changing all of the old philosophies and schools of thought. The energy world is now looking at biomass as a source of fuel. As the competitiveness increases, waste prices will come down as transportation costs increase.