Recycling isn’t a new concept. Most cities offer at-home recycling services for homeowners, with the majority of trash companies also offering brick-and-mortar businesses the option of recycling-specific dumpsters. But what happens on a construction site?
While it’s not as simple as tossing it all in a bin and waiting for collection day, construction debris recycling is an increasingly necessary practice as companies work to achieve waste diversion goals – especially for jobs where project owners are seeking various green certifications.
The best news? Nearly all common construction materials can be recycled, including concrete, masonry, wood, asphalt, shingles, metal, glass, plastics, carpet and even insulation. With these tips, you can quickly start recycling on your jobsites.
You can integrate a waste diversion plan into your project from start to finish. While letting a hauling company handle the bulk of the process is a quick and simple way to get the job done, there are few things you can do to learn how to recycle construction waste — and even handle a bit of the sorting or repurposing before a recycling dumpster is on-site.
Start the salvaging process before you even get to work. If your project involves demolition, you’ll have to get rid of the debris at some point. Why not dispose of some of it before you even knock down a wall?
Local charities and reclamation stores are often willing to claim and sometimes even remove items that they are interested in reselling or using in a future project. If your project’s timeline has the room, reach out to charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and The Salvation Army to see what they’re looking for. You may find that they’ll clear larger items like doors, cabinets and kitchen or bathroom fixtures with minimal cost and effort needed on your end.
Not everything can be reused, but you can still identify opportunities to work old materials back into your current project or future jobs.
Take the time to comb through your supply list and find ways to reduce the number of construction materials you’ll need to recycle in the first place. Perhaps you can reuse the light fixtures from a demo project in a future build. Or maybe the extra lumber from building a new home will work for a deck railing in an upcoming project.
However, don’t limit yourself to only the materials you’re buying. Consider your surroundings, too. Maybe that dirt you removed when flattening out the plot for a commercial build can be used at the end of the project to re-grade the green space surrounding the new building. Instead of clearing the land of trees, bushes and plants that then wind up in a dumpster, could that green life be transferred to a new location or even integrated back into the landscaping around the new structure?
So, how do you create a materials reuse plan? It really comes down to your workflow and how active your worksites are. These questions will help get you started:
To save headaches down the line, make sure to reach out to local recycling facilities to understand their policies. While you’ll find that many facilities accept similar items, you might discover one that takes something different because they have different machinery to process the debris. When reaching out to a recycler, be sure to get answers to questions like:
Know in advance that this can be time-consuming — especially if you work in multiple cities or nationwide. You’ll often need to make phone calls to several facilities, and it can lead to extra time spent on the jobsite to ensure your construction waste meets the recycling center’s specifications.
You wouldn’t begin construction without an approved set of blueprints to guide your way. So don’t set a waste diversion goal without mapping out a recycling plan to set you up for success, either.
Your first draft doesn’t have to be flawless — situations come up, and you’ll need to adjust. But if you enter with a plan, it’s more likely that you’ll stick to and achieve your recycling goals.
While there are many moving parts, start by choosing whether you want on-site or off-site recycling. To put it simply, on-site sorting is where you would sort your materials into separate containers on the jobsite. They are then taken to the correct facilities to handle the material type. Off-site sorting is where you place all of your debris into a commingled — or mixed — recycling load, and the facility sorts it for you.
Off-site recycling will usually save you time because you just toss all recyclable materials into one dumpster. For smaller worksites, this might be an ideal solution because there are fewer containers on-site, saving you space. However, it may be more expensive since the facilities often charge more to handle the sorting.
On the other hand, on-site sorting is the best way to recycle as much of your construction debris as possible. It requires more space on your jobsite and potentially more trips to different facilities depending on what is in your area. But you have more overall control of the recycling process. So, consider on-site sorting as your primary method if you have high recycling targets.
The less you need to throw out, the easier it is to hit your waste diversion goals. This is particularly important with items that have a short shelf life. Perhaps you’re working with lumber that can’t spend too much time in the rain, or an insulation that becomes less effective when exposed to direct sunlight. Knowing how much of that material you’ll need for each section of your project will help you avoid overbuying and letting the excess spoil.
When possible, it’s also best to work in batches to avoid letting perishable materials go bad. For example, if you know you’ll need caulk for the kitchen, but it can also be used in the two bathrooms, plan ahead to get those rooms completed before the caulk expires — even if it doesn’t completely make sense with the development of the project.
This construction recycling tip helps you as much as it does the environment — the fewer materials you have to throw out, the fewer additional materials you’ll need to purchase, lowering the overall price of the project.
There’s a lot that goes into honing and perfecting your jobsite recycling practices — but you don’t have to do it alone. A national waste hauler with a proven track record will help make your waste diversion plans a reality.
By working with a waste provider like Dumpsters.com, you can save time and effort. We’ll handle the research for you, from what materials are accepted for recycling at your jobsite to any specific rules and restrictions that area facilities may have.
Here’s another benefit of partnering with a centralized dumpster partner: We’ll set you up with the right containers and haul materials to the appropriate local facilities to keep your project on track and hit your client’s sustainability and recycling goals.
When you rely on the right group, you can rest assured your worksite will get staged with multiple single-stream and commingled containers. Plus, the right waste management company can arrange for swap-outs to ensure you have construction recycling options on-site at all times.
Working with a smaller site? By counting on companies like ours for your trash, you’ll have confidence that your partner will arrange live-loads or stagger deliveries to fit your space needs without sacrificing a high waste diversion percentage.
Trying out just a couple of these tips is bound to help control your waste stream and increase your diversion rate, whether you plan on calling local charities before your next demo or exploring the benefits of on-site vs. off-site sorting. But remember — you don’t have to go on this adventure alone. Whether you’re just trying to discover what recycling rates are possible for you or you’re working with a large national corporation that expects lofty diversion rates, our team is ready to help you form a recycling plan that will take your business to the next level.