Regulations increase for construction and demolition
by Brian R. Hook
Regulations and legislation covering construction and
demolition (C&D) debris – consisting of bulky heavy
materials, such as concrete, wood, metals, glass and
other salvaged components – generated during the construction,
renovation and demolition of buildings, roads and bridges
are becoming more common across the country.
Most of the new regulations are being driven at the state
and local level, said William Turley, executive director
of the Construction Materials Recycling Association.
Several cities, for example, have banned C&D debris
from either the disposal of it in landfills or require
a certain amount of material generated from C&D to
The Eola, Illinois-based trade association estimates
that there is more than 325 million tons of recoverable
C&D materials generated in the United States annually.
These recyclable materials include aggregates such as
concrete, asphalt, wood and metals.
“C&D used to be the quiet waste stream. Not many
people were concerned about it, as opposed to MSW (municipal
solid waste),” Turley said. “The general public always
knew and supported recycling the material they put in
their blue bins down at the end of their driveways, but
no one really knew what C&D was and what happened
As more governmental entities have become interested
in recycling more of the waste stream, however, Turley
said regulators are starting to realize that C&D
presents an additional opportunity for states and municipalities
to increase their recycling rates.
Many of the regulations, however, only impact one part
of the recycling process, Turley said, noting that recycling
consists of three parts; generation, processing into
a product, and end use. But only the generator is being
required to recycle C&D debris.
“On the one hand we have government agencies requiring
the recycling of C&D materials, but on the other
hand we have government agencies that should be the biggest
consumers of recycled C&D products,” Turley said.
“There should be more of a focus on increasing the demand
for recycled products, rather than on requiring recycling.”
One example is the state highway departments. Recycled
concrete could be used as a roadbase product in highway
projects. Turley said it has suitable engineering characteristics
to replace virgin aggregates and is almost always cheaper.
Therefore, the highway departments could help with recycling
efforts by using more C&D materials.
Approximately 170 million tons of building-related C&D
materials were generated in 2003, according to the latest
figures gathered by the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). Of that amount, 48 percent of it was recovered.
The federal government does not track the number of regulations
concerning C&D debris, said Kim Cochran, an environmental
engineer for the EPA in Washington D.C. Nor does the
EPA have any plans to regulate C&D, she said, noting
many of the ordinances concerning C&D by states are
relatively new. The EPA, however, actively works with
the states to support their various efforts to increase
“Recycling C&D materials creates green jobs, provides
lower-cost materials, decreases the need for landfill
space within communities, reduces greenhouse gas emissions,
conserves energy, and conserves natural resources,” Cochran
Examples of regulations promoting C&D recycling at
the state level include landfill disposal bans on various
C&D materials, state recycling goals or mandates,
requirements for governmental buildings to achieve some
level of green building status, and requirements that
state procurement agencies purchase recycled materials.
One of the most prominent examples is Massachusetts,
Cochran said. It has implemented a combination of regulations
to increase C&D recycling, including implementing
recycling goals, landfill disposal bans for various C&D
materials, and requirements for the state procurement
agency to purchase recycled C&D material.
In addition to states, cities and counties have implemented
ordinances, Cochran said. Examples include requiring
contractors to submit construction waste management plans
with their building permit applications, requiring contractors
to pay a deposit when filing for a building permit, requiring
governmental buildings to achieve some level of green
building status, and placing bans on landfill disposal
of C&D materials.
Regulation of the C&D waste stream has slowed down
recently, said Mike Taylor, executive director of the
National Demolition Association. The Doylestown, Pennsylvania-based
trade association represents more than 1,000 companies.
A number of states had a flurry of regulations concerning
C&D debris several years ago, Taylor said, giving
California as an example. The state mandates that by
2010, 60 percent of each county’s waste has to be recycled,
including C&D debris.
Across the country there are currently 38 states that
have specific regulations concerning C&D debris.
Taylor said that the regulations can be very brief, from
one or two sentences, to very elaborate regulations,
encompassing hundreds of pages.
“I think the trend now is to promote more recycling of
these materials,” Taylor said. “You haven’t seen that
pushed from a regulatory standpoint. I think state governments
are trying to develop systems whereby they provide market
The recession took the wind out of a lot of the efforts
to regulate C&D materials, Taylor said, adding that
the downturn in the economy has also caused a drop in
companies using recyclables that are produced from municipal
The National Demolition Association has identified 14
constituents of a structure from a technological standpoint
that can be recycled. Right now, however, there are only
two or three materials from the C&D debris that are
profitable to recycle, including the smallest piece of
metal to other aggregate materials like concrete and
Taylor said it might be helpful if the EPA developed
a national C&D recycling policy. This might help
some of the states and other local entities remove some
of the administrative barriers currently in place and
help set up some economic incentives.
“Over time more of these C&D commodities would start
to appear in buildings and you would lessen the burden
on landfills and people would get used to using them.
That’s a lot better than putting this stuff in a hole
in the ground,” Taylor said.