With a growing population and an aging infrastructure, construction and demolition sites are among the largest producers of trash. According to the Construction Materials Recycling Association (www.cdrecycling.org), the construction industry generates 325 million tons of waste in the United States each year that could have been recycled.
Right now, there are a lot of materials that are likely winding up in landfills. But given the costs of building materials today, doesn’t it makes more sense for both business and the environment to recycle excess materials?
Here are five easy examples of building materials likely on your jobsite today that you can, and should, recycle:
Hundreds of thousands of new homes are built in the United States every year, and the majority of these still use new timber. Add to that manufactured homes, additions, renovations, and repairs, and you have millions of trees being lost for everything from particleboard sheathing to luxurious mahogany floors.
Some of the wood that is torn out of existing structures can be recut or refinished for other uses at a cost far below new replacements. Weathered wood is considered stylish now. The "trash" wood can be ground up into chips for use in particleboard. Every tree saved benefits the environment.
Drywall is used almost everywhere in modern construction. It's just far cheaper and easier to work with than other materials. Drywall is little more than pressed gypsum covered with paper, but it's hard to imagine a home today built without it. It's fire-resistant, easily painted, and can last for many years.
Drywall has many uses even after it's torn down. Portions of it can be cut to patch holes or cover smaller openings. Ground up, it makes a good addition to fertilizer and fire-proofing materials.
Steel, in one form or another, is used nearly everywhere. It makes the best tools and supports frames in everything from two-story structures to modern skyscrapers. It can be melted, pulled, pounded, and bent for almost any use you can imagine. It is used in doors, appliances, vehicles, and much more that eventually gets scrapped. Millions of tons of steel are discarded every year in the United States.
The wonderful thing about most metals, but especially steel, is that there is always high demand. With steel, every bit of it can be melted down and reused in new applications, instead of being left to rust away into the groundwater.
Construction firms don't normally bother recycling glass for a number of reasons. It's cheap, easily made (from sand), at times hard to remove, and often has other materials attached, such as pieces of vinyl or aluminum window frames. It's also environmentally safe, if unsightly and potentially dangerous when left lying around.
However, it can be sorted at the recycler into various types, and all glass is 100-percent recyclable. It can be melted, blended, and repurposed into any type of glass or fiberglass product. Recycling glass means cheaper costs passed onto both builders and consumers.
Concrete debris was once trucked off to landfills, but today is a frequently recycled material that can save builders money. Recyclers, for a fee, will screen out dirt and other debris and crush the old chunks of concrete. There are even smaller versions of these machines that can sift and crush old chunks of concrete right at the job site.
The recycled concrete can be used as filler in foundations, walkways, walls, and other forms of poured concrete. When crushed, this form of recycled concrete is often used as a bed for layout of plumbing or drainage. It's also used by landscapers as a weather and rot-resistant barrier around plantings.
Recycling all these materials benefits the environment because manufacturers don't have to use as much fuel or energy to obtain and process additional natural sources. Recycling means fewer landfills, and less energy means lower costs for construction companies and their customers.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat, the world’s #1 leading waste oil boiler manufacturer.