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Common Types of Construction Waste and How to Get Rid of Them

Thinking Through Your Construction Waste Management Plan

Construction projects come with plenty of mess to manage. And that shouldn't come as a surprise. According to a report from Virginia Tech's Department of Wood Science and Forest Products and the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station, constructing a 2,000 square foot house can create up to 3,700 pounds of solid wood waste alone

So, how should you manage all of that debris? And how many roll off containers will you need on site? It all depends on what type of debris you're dealing with. We talked to the National Association of Home Builders for practical advice you can apply on the job. 

Construction and Demolition Waste Definition

Construction and demolition debris include any waste materials used on-site, from drywall and concrete to shingles and lumber. In other words, if it’s being used in building, manufacturing or demolition, it’s classified as construction debris. 

The most common construction waste materials fall into two categories: general and heavy debris. Remember the difference between these categories, because heavy debris has to be hauled in a separate dumpster from other construction materials.

Common General Construction Debris: Common Heavy Debris Types:
  • Drywall
  • Wood
  • Windows and Glass
  • Roofing Material
  • Fixtures
  • Metal
  • Insulation
  • Wiring
  • Duct Work
  • Brick
  • Block
  • Concrete
  • Asphalt
  • Stone
  • Gravel


How to Put Together Your Construction Waste Management Plan

When you’re planning a new project, you should put the same thought into waste management as any other aspect of the job. You’ll work more efficiently and even cut costs. According to the National Association of Home Builders, there are four objectives that you should consider when writing your construction waste management plan. 

  1. Reduce the quantity of materials needed for the structure. This can be done by right-sizing the designs so you don’t have to make as many cuts. 
  2. Use durable materials to minimize repairs the structure may need over time.
  3. Plan for efficient material use. Work with a designer as early as possible in the process and order materials in standard sizes to reduce cost and waste.
  4. Recycle whatever you can. The most commonly accepted materials for recycling include plywood, cardboard, paper and metal. 

Pro Tip: Check with manufacturers to see if you can return unused material for repurposing or recycling. For example, some vinyl siding manufacturers have return programs in place that can save you valuable space and weight in your roll off dumpster. 

Once you’ve designed your waste management plan, it’s time to rent the containers to handle on-site waste disposal. To accurately estimate how much debris you have to get rid of, use our online calculators to get approximate weights and dumpster sizes for everything from drywall to asphalt and concrete. Since general construction debris and heavy debris cannot be mixed, make a note if you need to rent multiple containers. 

Once you know what size and type of construction dumpster to rent, coordinate with your project manager to schedule empty-and-return service. Estimating ahead of time when you’ll need your dumpster emptied can save you on overage or overloading fees down the road. 

Pro Tip: Heavy debris can’t be placed in the same container as other types of construction waste because they go to separate facilities. Heavy debris is often processed for recycling at a recovery facility while other waste goes to the landfill. Mixing them in your container can result in additional charges. 

Why Worry About How Much Construction Debris You Toss?

It all comes down to your bottom line. Costs are rising for certain materials – including lumber. According to Michelle Diller of the National Association of Home Builders, site managers are saving on material costs by reducing lumber waste on their construction sites. 

Other key benefits of reducing construction and demolition debris include:

  • Reducing overall disposal expenses. 
  • Conserving valuable landfill space. 
  • Offsetting the environmental impact of new construction and demolition projects.
  • Claiming tax benefits for companies that donate leftover materials to recycling centers, upcycling organizations or charities.
  • Creating new jobs in the recycling sector as more projects and sites take advantage of available programs.

Green building and responsible construction debris management are growing trends, and it can pay off to get on board now. projects and sites take advantage of available programs.

“Anecdotally, it’s become much more mainstream in the industry. There are more facilities available [for recycling] and they’re more cost-effective. If home builders are pursuing a green building certification, it’s a strategy that they are looking at.”
Michelle Diller | National Association of Home Builders

Reducing Construction Debris Disposal with Home Deconstruction

If you’re looking to reduce the amount of debris you’re tossing on the job, home deconstruction may be a viable option. Deconstructing saves materials that aren’t accepted at construction recycling facilities and can reduce waste by more than 50 percent. 

“Deconstruction is definitely an option for [home] builders. It provides an opportunity to salvage material if you’re looking to reduce construction waste or if you’re working in a historic home.”
Michelle Diller | National Association of Home Builders

To create the best construction waste management plan for your site, just remember: make design choices to reduce waste, recycle what you can, and rent the right dumpster size and type for what you can’t recycle. Having a clear plan for your construction debris saves you time, materials and money – and helps earn you the green cred today’s clients are looking for. 

Want to make your job site even more efficient? Read our recycling checklist for construction projects and apps to help grow your business

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