Unfortunately, you can’t dispose of construction waste the same way as regular trash. There’s no tossing it in a bag and waiting for the city to pick it up. Construction and demolition (C&D) debris need to be handled and removed with care because of the contaminants they contain. While this can certainly take more time, it avoids polluting the environment and saves you money from non-compliance fees.
Before we take a look at the proper methods for disposal of construction waste, let’s define and identify types of C&D debris:
Construction and demolition debris is the nonhazardous material that is leftover from construction, demolition, remodeling and repair projects. The most common types of C&D debris are concrete, bricks, wood, plaster, drywall, metal, plumbing, insulation (non-asbestos), roofing material, glass, wiring, rock, and soil.
It’s important to note that these disposal best practices are only applicable for non-hazardous wastes. For debris that is considered hazardous like asbestos, lead, and silica, your team will have to follow an entirely different set of disposal rules.
Clean vs. Dirty Debris
There are two classifications of construction and demolition debris: clean and dirty. “Clean” debris refers to materials that aren’t contaminated and are separated from different materials. For example, a bin of wood can be considered “clean” if there are no bricks, concrete or other materials mixed in with it. The benefit of having “clean” debris is cost-savings. Disposing of a “clean” dumpster will cost less than a “dirty” dumpster.
“Dirty” debris simply refers to a mixture of different types of construction debris. Whether it is a mixture of bricks and wood, or a mixture of several types of materials, the entire load will be classified as “dirty”. Although this is the most common type of construction debris, it’s also the most expensive because “dirty” materials must go to the landfill.
4 Types of Construction & Debris Disposal
Besides the clean and dirty classifications of construction debris, there are four main types of C&D disposal: reduction, reuse, recycling, and disposal.
This method of dealing with C&D debris isn’t a way of disposal, but rather a method to prevent the need to dispose of construction materials. While it’s easier to estimate the number of materials needed for a construction project, it’s a lot more difficult to determine what sort of debris you will end up with after completing a demolition project. To reduce the amount of debris your project produces, consider deconstruction as opposed to demolition.
As the same suggests, deconstruction is the opposite of construction. While with construction you assemble a building piece-by-piece, deconstruction involves removing building parts piece-by-piece. The deconstruction process certainly takes longer than bulldozing an entire building, but it can pay off.
With deconstruction, you can salvage as much of the structure’s materials as possible. These materials can then be used for a different construction project, sold or donated. With deconstruction, you’re also able to create “clean” debris which you can then recycle—saving you money and saving the environment.
While reusing materials certainly does happen in the construction industry, it’s usually on a smaller scale. There are hundreds of ways to reuse construction and demolition debris. And even if the materials aren’t reused on your projects, someone else can reuse them.
Wood, concrete, and soil are especially reusable and are a frequent “want item” by community centers and maker hubs. It’s easy to reuse items when your team takes the time to deconstruct a building as opposed to completely demolishing it.
If you’d like your construction and deconstruction debris to be reused, spend the time separating the waste and ensuring that it can be classified as “clean” because you can’t simply drop off a dumpster of “dirty” waste at a maker space for someone else to sort through and hopefully use.
We mentioned how much cheaper construction waste recycling can be than disposing of the waste in a landfill, but the recycling of C&D debris is also very simple as there are thousands of recycling centers are the country. It’s important to note that almost all non-hazardous construction and demolition waste materials can be recycled, including concrete, asphalt, wood, aluminum, corrugated cardboard, and metals.
To recycle your C&D debris, you can choose from one of the following methods:
- On-Site Processing: This method involves your team as they will be the ones sorting through the material at the project site. The non-hazardous materials will be ready for recycling and reuse after they have been sorted and categorized.
- Mixed-Material Collection: While the material will still be sorted, with a mixed-material collection, your team is not the one sorting it. With a mixed-material collection, the recyclables are moved to a waste facility where they’re sorted. The material is then transferred to a recycling facility to be recycled.
- Source Separation: With source separation, your team will once again be the ones sorting through the material, but as opposed to being recycled and reused by the community, the material will be sent to a facility for recycling.
Construction waste disposal should be your last resort. Not only should you try to reduce, reuse and recycle the debris to save you money, but also to help protect the environment and your fellow humans from contamination. If you do need to take your debris to a landfill, you will need to rent a dumpster with a company that accepts C&D waste. Not all dumpster rental companies will accept construction and demolition debris, so it’s important to clarify their conditions before renting from them.
If you’re looking to dispose of hazardous materials at the landfill, think again. Asbestos, lead and silica-infused materials need to be remediated and properly disposed of; they cannot go straight to the landfill with the rest of your materials.
For more information on construction waste management and other construction-related topics, signup for our OSHA Construction Courses. Each course was designed around OSHA standards and will ensure you’re updated on the latest safety information and are compliant with OSHA’s training requirements. Sign up for your course today!