December 2005

Construction and demolition debris restrictions inconsistent
by Brian R. Hook E-mail the author

More cities and states across the country are placing restrictions on the kinds of construction and demolition debris allowed in landfills. But industry insiders tell American Recycler it is more a patchwork of rules rather than a widespread trend.

John Skinner, executive director and chief executive officer of the Solid Waste Association of North America in Silver Spring, Maryland, said he has heard of a few restrictions put on C&D debris. “But, I haven’t heard it on a wide scale,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s a concern, for example, about particular types of C&D waste, such as gypsum wallboard. It could easily get wet and form hydrogen sulfide. I’ve also heard some concerns about coated or treated wood, due to the arsenic in the wood. But I haven’t heard of a wide-scale prohibition of C&D wastes in landfills,” Skinner said.

Skinner said the association’s position on restrictions is simple: “No ban without a plan.” If states or municipalities want to restrict C&D waste, those entities need to establish an infrastructure for managing those wastes. “If you want C&D to be recycled, you should work to establish the facilities to recycle that material,” Skinner said.

“It is counterproductive just to ban those wastes from being disposed of in the landfill and not have an alternative, because what happens then is it finds its way some other place. If there’s no plan, the C&D waste will simply go to another state.”

Chaz Miller, director of recycling and state programs at the National Solid Wastes Management Association in Washington D.C., said some states have banned the disposal of C&D materials from landfills. But so far, there are no federal restrictions. “If the state has well developed markets, the banned materials may be recycled,” Miller said. “The challenge is finding new markets for C&D materials that are banned from disposal.”

Chicago is an example of a city that has implemented C&D debris restrictions. As American Recycler reported, Chicago will require contractors to recycle 25 percent of all C&D debris starting in January. That number will increase to 50 percent by 2007.

Bob Brickner, senior vice president at Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., a waste management consulting firm in Fairfax, Virginia, said that these types of restrictions are not a new trend in the industry. Instead, he said that different types of restrictions on what goes into landfills have been slowly increasing over the decades.

“Depending upon what state you’re in, some are doing absolutely nothing. Some states are doing nothing but regulating it and others are much more aggressive as they put forth their regulations and try to embed recycling goals and requirements,” Brickner said.

“There are pockets of things going on depending upon how aggressive the legislatures may be. Are they trendsetters like California or are they followers like unfortunately too many other states? Massachusetts is a good exception.”

William Turley, executive director of Construction Materials Recycling Association, in Eola, Illinois, said Massachusetts will soon require all concrete, asphalt, brick, block, metals and wood from the C&D waste stream to pass through a recycling center before it can be disposed of. Turley said that the state worked with those in the waste-management industry, including his members, to make these goals feasible.

“Their long-range goals are to add gypsum and asphalt shingles to this ban. Many states, especially those around Massachusetts, are going to watch to see how the ban goes,” he said. Turley said he expects other states to also tighten C&D restrictions.

“Obviously, it means more work for the C&D recyclers. But they continue to need market outlets for the products. It would be more helpful for these governmental entities to pass laws requiring the purchase of recycled products in their bid specs, rather than just requiring the material to go to a recycler,” Turley said. He said often cities will mandate the recycling of material, but the same cities won’t buy back the recycled end product.

Turley said that his association estimated the total C&D waste stream at about 325 million tons per year. He said that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is updating its 1997 estimate of building-related C&D waste generation, which was 136 million tons. Turley said the amount calculated by the EPA did not include road and bridge work.

C&D debris accounted for almost 22 percent of the waste stream in California last year, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board in Sacramento. The board is responsible for managing the state’s solid waste stream. It works closely with local government entities to meet the state’s 50 percent waste-diversion mandate.

“The Integrated Waste Management Act is material-neutral and it is up to the local jurisdictions to target materials and programs to meet their diversion mandates,” said Catherine Cardozo, supervising integrated waste management specialist at CIWMB.

“C&D is a natural target because of its density and prevalence. There is no state statutory restriction on C&D in landfills per se; although it may be that some jurisdictions have a local ban on its disposal.” She said about 100 jurisdictions have adopted a C&D diversion ordinance and another 15 to 20 are under development.

C&D waste that is diverted in California goes to various recycling facilities. “Some only accept separated material, like only wood, or only metal, or only asphalt and concrete,” Cardozo said. “With the potential for the demand for these materials to go up as a result of ordinance adoption driving the market, this also has the potential to create additional infrastructure to accept these materials throughout the state.”

As just one example, Cardozo said the city of Fresno is anticipating it will receive a large volume of C&D waste as a result of its recent adoption of a C&D diversion ordinance that requires contractors to take C&D materials to recyclers. “As a result, they are working to ultimately get ten C&D recycling facilities into the area,” Cardozo said.


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