Recycling of Construction and Demolition Materials (C&D) in North America: What is the current situation?

2018-07-23T12:34:57-04:00June 27, 2018|

In North America, the recycling of construction and demolition materials is drawing the attention of cities and municipalities. Indeed, they are often at the forefront of creating C&D residue management initiatives and they recognize the need for action. Studies in Canada and United States highlight the significant share of this type of waste in municipal solid waste generated. Here’s an overview of interesting initiatives in Canada and United States, the benefits they bring to cities and municipalities, challenges that lie ahead, and solutions on the horizon. Feel free to take inspiration from these actions to refine or build your own strategy.

Why recycle C&D materials?

C&D residues mainly come from the construction, renovation and demolition of buildings, bridges and road infrastructure.

These areas generate a variety from materials, often heavy and bulky residues, such as:

  • concrete
  • wood
  • asphalt covers
  • gypsum

Reducing, reusing and recycling this type of materials has many benefits for municipalities, cities and industry players. Let’s name, for example:

  • local job creation in the recycling industry
  • cost reduction of construction projects
  • improving the quality of life of citizens
  • lower environmental costs associated with new resource extraction, materials production and landfilling

To take full advantage of these benefits, cities and municipalities need to carefully plan their next actions and initiatives.

Several guides exist to help cities and municipalities in North America recycle construction and demolition materials, including:

 

Promising Government Policies in Canada

In Canada, C&D materials are among the largest municipal solid wastes. However, according to the report from Canadian Council of Ministers  [PDF, 2.15 MB, French and English], the amount of C&D materials diverted from landfills has increased by 30 percent in 10 years. The majority of the efforts come from the municipal environment.

Sources of C&D materials generated in Canada

Source: Policy Selection Guide for the Reduction and Diversion of Construction, Renovation and Demolition Waste, Canadian Council of Ministers

 

In Québec: Investments in C&D sorting centers

In February 2018, the Québec government increased its support to sorting centers specializing in construction and demolition materials by $ 2.5 million. RECYC-QUÉBEC will be able to help them identify some of the difficulties associated with the industry, such as the management of fine residues from sieving.

Consult the RECYC-QUÉBEC website (In French) for more information on this financial support program.

Moreover, in its last Residual Materials Management Policy (French), Québec has 2 main targets. Québec wants to recycle or valorize 80% of concrete, brick and asphalt residues and be able to sort or send 70% of the construction, renovation and demolition materials generated to a sorting center.

 

In British Columbia: towards zero waste

In many places in British Columbia, recycling of construction and demolition materials is part of a zero waste strategy.

Here are some initiatives put in place:

  • City of Port Moody

In 2011, the City of Port Moody passed a law to reduce the amount of C&D materials sent to landfills. It requires the development of a residual materials management plan and a cash deposit when applying for a new construction or demolition permit. It is the first city in Canada to develop such a strategy.

According to this law, 70% of the recyclable residues produced on site must have been recycled at the end of the project. The City will return the deposited money if the manager proves to have met the requirements. In 2013, the City obtained a diversion rate of 84% of these materials from landfills.

  • City of Vancouver

Vancouver wants to become the greenest city by 2050 and, to do so, it promotes, among others, the zero waste approach. In 2014, the City passed the Greener Demolition Act, requiring the diversion from landfills of 70 to 90 per cent of construction and demolition materials.

Since January 2018, this law affects all homes. Thanks to its efforts, the City managed to divert 86% of C&D residues from landfills in 2016. See its demolition permit page for more information.

In addition, the Greater Vancouver Regional District, to which these two cities belong, banned clean wood and gypsum from its waste disposal and trans-shipment facilities.

 

Recycling of C&D materials initiatives in United States

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, United States generated 534 million tons of construction and demolition materials in 2014. That’s more than twice the amount of solid municipal waste. More than 90% of this C&D materials comes from demolition projects.

Construction and demolition materials generated VS sent to landfills in USA

Source : Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Tables and Figures, Environmental Protection Agency

 

State and city governments are working together to accelerate the reduction of C&D residues. Initiatives include, for example:

City of Austin, Texas

Since 2016, the City of Austin has passed an ordinance for the recycling of construction and demolition materials. Contractors must divert at least 50% of the C& D residues from landfills. They can bury as much as 2.5 pounds of material per square foot of floor in landfills.

For the time being, only projects that obtained their permit before October 2016 and that require the addition or renovation of more than 5000 sq. Ft. must meet these requirements. The City plans to extend this requirement to all projects by 2019. Visit the Construction & Demolition Recycling Ordinance page on the City’s website for more information.

California and the City of San José

The City of San Jose has set up a program to divert 75% of C&D materials from landfills. It requires a deposit to obtain a permit for construction, renovation or demolition. Once the person in charge has proved to have met the requirements, the cash deposit can be recovered. On-site C&D materials must be brought to one of the facilities certified by the City. Visit the Construction & Demolition Diversion (C&D) Program page to learn more.

Today, however, the majority of construction and demolition projects are submitted to the State of California’s Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). It is the first Green Building Code covering an entire state in the United States. It requires the diversion of 50% of this type of waste from landfills, unless the city where the project takes place has a stricter regulation. The permit holder must submit a construction, renovation and demolition waste management plan.

 

The challenges of recycling construction and demolition materials in North America

Still, challenges remain for recycling of C&D materials in North America. Cities and municipalities wishing to set up a management strategy face some difficulties.

For example :

  • Lack of outlets for the recovery of certain residues
  • Transport of materials to appropriate sorting or recovery centers can sometimes be complex
  • Space constraints on site to sort at the source
  • Higher management costs for some kind of materials
  • Materials sometimes mixed, causing therefore higher risks of contamination

 

Waste Robotics brings solutions!

Waste Robotics has solid experience and advanced knowledge of the industry and its challenges. That’s why the company wants to leverage its expertise to find solutions and make recycling of construction and demolition materials across North America easier.

In May, the company received a grant to develop a robot capable of better sorting the residues of C&D materials for a plant in Trois-Rivières (in French). With this promising technology combining artificial intelligence and deep learning, Waste Robotics wants to reduce recycling costs and contamination of materials. The investment will total $ 1 million, and the robot should be in operation in the coming months.

Visit the Waste Robotics website to find out how the company can help you better recycle this type of material!

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