Construction waste is an inevitable part of any renovation or construction project, regardless of its size or scope. For companies that want to keep their construction efforts as green as possible, getting rid of commercial waste becomes a bit more complicated than just throwing it in the nearest dumpster.
Recycling construction waste is not only the environmentally responsible thing to do, but it can also potentially reduce the costs involved in the disposal of construction waste. If you're wondering what can and can't be recycled, the following offers a brief run-through of the various materials you'll encounter and their recyclability.
What Can Be Recycled
As it turns out, the vast majority of the construction waste you'll encounter can be easily recycled. Most of these materials can be broken down and reconstituted into a wide variety of materials for use elsewhere:
- Concrete – Large chunks of concrete can be used to prevent soil erosion along waterways, broken up into smaller chunks as a base material for asphalt roadways or ground finely for use as dry aggregate for new concrete.
- Asphalt – Old asphalt pavement and roofing tiles can be broken down and used as reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP). RAP can be mixed at lower temperatures than new asphalt, making it environmentally friendlier and more carbon neutral.
- Glass – According to the Glass Packaging Institute, glass can be recycled endlessly without any loss in purity or quality. Glass fragments from broken windows and other fixtures can easily be turned into a host of other products, including fiberglass.
- Metals – Structural steel such as beams and rebar can be separated from concrete, melted down and reused in a wide variety of products. Researchers have discovered that recycled metals can even be used to detoxify pollutants found in industrial wastewater.
- Carpeting – Carpeting can be broken down and reused in a wide range of products, from automotive parts to furniture, carpet cushioning and even erosion control. In many cases, carpet that's in relatively good condition can also be reused as-is elsewhere.
- Elements and fixtures – Intact fixtures such as doors, windows, tiles, plumbing and wiring can be reused elsewhere, saving you plenty of dumpster space for other materials.
What Shouldn't Be Recycled
Although the vast majority of materials found in the average commercial building can be recycled without any problems, there are still a number of materials that shouldn't or can't be recycled. The following materials should be disposed of in accordance with local statutes for hazardous materials:
- Materials painted with lead paint – Lead is a highly toxic substance that could easily cause harm to those exposed to it. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, lead from paint is considered one of the leading causes of lead poisoning.
- Asbestos – Asbestos is another highly toxic material that should be removed and disposed of with care. This material was once commonly used in commercial buildings thanks to its fire-resistant properties.
- Fiberglass – In most cases, fiberglass isn't recyclable through normal means. However, researchers have found a way to recycle the material for use in cement production.
- Foam insulation – Foam insulation is another material that has proven difficult to recycle in the past, although recent advances in recycling technology have made doing so feasible within a limited scope.
- Materials containing mercury – Like lead and asbestos, mercury can easily contaminate its surroundings and cause health problems if it isn't disposed of properly. Such materials should not be recycled with the rest of your construction waste.
By having a firm understanding of what can and can't be recycled, you'll be able to effectively and efficiently dispose of your construction waste in an environmentally friendly manner. Check out companies like ESP Dumpsters & Waste Services for more information on getting dumpsters at your site.