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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Buildings, Real Estate and Facilities > Green Building Practices for Sustainable Facilities > Construction & Remodeling

Recycling Debris from Demolition and Construction

Deconstruction trumps demolition to solve our solid waste mountains of construction materials.

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california c&d construction and demolition debris recycling green solutions Construction and maintenance of our homes constitute a huge percentage of our use of natural resouces in materials such as wood, glass, concrete, bricks, and even petroleum. Good stewardship is both an immediate and longterm strategy that can save money, improve health and quality of life, as well as prevent problems such as emissions that impact climate change and add solid waste to our growing solid waste refuse centers.

According to the 2004 California "Statewide Waste Characterization Study," construction and demolition (C&D) materials account for almost 22 percent of our state's waste stream. Many of these materials can be reused or recycled.

But finding outlets for these materials can be difficult, so we're providing a few resources to help you divert construction waste with a green twist.

Common construction debris materials include lumber, drywall, metals, masonry (brick, concrete, etc.), carpet, plastic, pipe, rocks, dirt, paper, cardboard, or green waste related to land development. Metals are most commonly recycled, while lumber makes up the majority of construction debris that goes to a landfill.

Sustainable or green building construction

The efficient use of resources is fundamental to green construction. Reducing, reusing, and recycling most if not all materials that remain after a construction or renovation project is both achievable and valuable.

Green practices can include...

  • salvaging lumber from the project
  • using aggregates reclaimed from crushed concrete
  • grinding drywall scraps for use on site as a soil amendment.

Deconstruction vs demolition...

Deconstruction is the orderly dismantling of building walls, floors, amenities and roofs for reuse or recycling. In demolition, buildings are knocked down and materials are either landfilled or recycled. Deconstruction involves carefully dismantling portions of buildings or removing their contents for reuse. Deconstruction can be as simple as stripping out cabinetry, fixtures, and windows, or extensive -- such as taking apart the building frame.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board's (CIWMB) core mission is to reduce the amount of solid waste disposed in California. One of their core strategies is to encourage and facilitate diversion of materials from landfill disposal for reuse and recycling. They also help develop markets for the recycled-content products produced from these materials in order to encourage the process of recycling.

California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) Resources:

Green Building tips and techniques.

C&D Materials

C&D Debris Recyclers

CIWMB's Local Assistance Contacts Database

Green Building Events database.

Universal and Hazardous Wastes in Construction and Demolition

Some wastes found in construction and demolition projects may need to be handled differently than the others. Universal wastes are common hazardous wastes that are generated by a variety of people and businesses, and are generally not allowed to be disposed of in solid waste landfills. They include fluorescent tubes and lamps, mercury containing items such as switches and thermostats, batteries, and some electronic equipment.

See DTSC's list of Public and Business Liaisons to contact resources in your area for hazardous waste management information.

The State Contractor's Licensing Board has developed A Consumer Guide to Asbestos (Adobe PDF of unknown size).

Disposal Options

Recycling opportunities in some areas may be limited and disposal may be the only option. Some materials, like non-hazardous asbestos, are generally not accepted at landfills. The State Water Resources Control Board provides information on permitted waste types at permitted landfills. Please check with the facility before taking any material.

Contact information about permitted disposal facilities can be found searching the Board's The Solid Waste Information System: SWIS database.

We have the technology...

Now we need human behavior that respects and cares about quality of life not once in a while, but everyday as a way of living. Many green practices cost no more than harmful solutions -- and they pay off in so many ways -- better community health, better individual health, and a feeling of respect and appreciation for a job well done. And a life well lived...a living legacy.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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