Plastic. Metals. Paper. Did you know that ESI Constructors believes in recycling at the construction job site — just like you do at home? Actually, you might not believe how much has changed in this aspect of construction waste management. ESI recently demolished a building in Kansas where contractors recovered and recycled nearly 100 percent of all materials. Although they could not recycle the roof insulation, they were able to recover the roof membrane, to be reused as tent material. Demolition and construction always create debris. For years, contractors would either haul waste material to the landfill or choose to reduce costs by burning or burying materials — including concrete — on site; however, the economics of construction waste management has changed in three ways.

  1. Construction materials have become more expensive in relation to labor, which has increased construction managers’ awareness of material conservation.
  2. Increasing global demand for raw materials has led to improved infrastructure and additional marketplaces for recycled materials.
  3. Environmental regulations and landfill fees have increased waste disposal costs.

At the same time, the green culture has grown as more people work to protect our natural resources. Many companies have adopted corporate sustainability programs and have elected to pursue projects certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).

Due to these economic and cultural shifts, the entire industry has changed dramatically during recent years, to provide new avenues to reduce, reuse and recycle — the three R’s of waste management.

REDUCE: ESI and its vendors work to order smaller quantities of materials, precut to length, and delivered on a just-in-time basis, to minimize scrap and damaged materials for disposal.

REUSE: ESI employs strategies such as utilizing roof insulation cut-offs as added insulation around door jambs, or crushing concrete on site to install as road base. Excess material, such as a partial pallet of masonry block, can be donated to local non-profit centers.

RECYCLE: ESI has partnered with a national waste hauling company to develop and administer a co-mingled recycling program. Materials, such as scrap steel, rebar, metal studs, concrete washout, pallets, lumber, and cardboard are collected on site in dumpsters. The waste hauler takes the dumpster to a processing center to sort the recyclables.

On ESI’s LEED certified projects, we track the percentage of waste that is diverted from the landfill. ESI is able to apply one point (50 percent diverted), two points (75 percent diverted), or three points (95 percent diverted) toward the project’s certification. Often ESI is able to divert 95 percent of the construction waste monthly from a landfill.

Many projects do not require the additional paperwork or costs of LEED certification, but ESI is still able to apply the same strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle construction debris to cut project costs and to conserve Earth’s resources.

By Pehr Anthony Peterson

Peterson is a project manager with ESI Constructors. He has 16 years of experience with on-site construction management.