C&D materials not always landfill-restricted

Some states and cities have legislation requiring that construction and demolition materials be diverted from landfills, but this is far from being a universal situation. William Turley, the executive director of Construction Materials Recycling Association, believes that more could and should be done to recycle these materials, and provided American Recycler with an overview of the current situation affecting this sector of the recycling industry.

With the recession ongoing, have markets for the recovered C&D materials been expanding or have they remained stable? How is the industry coping in these tough times?

Turley: What we’ve seen is a fallback on public works projects that would use recycled aggregates, which is our main market. In California they are broke, so they are not doing a lot of road and infrastructure work. That really hurts our roadbase market for recycled aggregate, concrete and asphalt. What’s happening in California is occurring in other parts of the country.

However, a lot of other markets still remain strong – C&D wood as a fuel product and asphalt shingle recycling still seems to be expanding because of the economic advantages it brings.

In terms of recovered C&D materials, which products are providing the highest return?

Turley: It depends, and usually we are seeing asphalt shingles doing well because it provides an opportunity for hot mix producers using the shingles – the biggest market for shingles – to save $2 to $4 a ton. If you are doing 100,000 to 200,000 tons a year, it adds up to real money. Asphalt shingles seem to be doing the best.

Are more cities and states passing laws to increase the percentage of materials that must be recovered and recycled from demolitions?

Turley: There has been more interest in this and we have seen a few more cities and states passing laws requiring that. Anyone can pass a law saying “thou shall recycle,” but it’s more important to develop the markets and many times these same cities and states that are requiring these materials to be recycled are not the ones buying it back all the time.

The best example remains recycled aggregates. The biggest market for these materials is to be put back into roadwork and the biggest customer for new roads and upgrades are the cities and states, but they don’t complete the circle. We would like to see more actions that lead towards that goal.

Should states be increasing the tipping fees for C&D materials to as a means to help improve the recycling rates of materials recovered from demolitions?

Turley: Increasing the tipping fee at landfills is kind of an artificial barrier that you are creating. It would probably help, but developing an end-market for these products would pull more materials from the waste stream.

To what extent are LEED certified construction projects helping in terms of the recycling of C&D materials?

Turley: LEED remains a driver for mixed C&D recycling, especially the mixed C&D recyclers. I did a poll several months ago at our board and learned that LEED accounts for 15 percent of their business. Because of the recession in construction, a lot of commercial projects are not seeking LEED certification because it can cost a little more. For quasi-governmental jobs such as universities, there are still many LEED projects.

We have a lot of issues with LEED and there are problems with some sham recycling going on, such as a sub-par recycling facility claiming an incredible recycling rate that is not possible with the equipment and techniques that it uses. There is no way to certify that it is being done correctly. We are currently working with the United States Green Building Council to solve that problem to develop a third party certification program.

As governments push for increased production of alternative energy, has there been a corresponding increase in demand for recovered C&D wood to help produce biomass?

Turley: We have not seen this demand, but we expect it to grow. There have been some questions about the use of C&D wood as a fuel product, even natural wood/forest wood, by environmental groups.

While it does make sense to use this wood, sometimes our only alternative for it is the landfill because it is good for nothing else. We should recover the BTU value. We are not seeing a demand increase yet, but there are a lot of biomass plants on the board and we are hoping that it will eventually drive the demand and prices to develop a market for it. The State of Maine uses a lot of C&D wood, but California is still the leader.

Have any new practices or innovations in the field of C&D recovery and recycling been introduced? Are there any interesting pilot projects and research that are showing promise?

Turley: One of the most interesting projects I know of is the use of gasification systems, not to be confused with incineration. These systems can take C&D materials to generate power.

Although they are not there yet, it is exciting that they are working on systems to take our residuals to recover BTU value and create fuel. It would be nice to eliminate the need to send this material to a landfill and instead sent it to a gasification system after we are done pulling out everything we can.

Is the construction industry doing enough to promote the use of construction materials made from recycled content for road work and commercial and residential construction?

Turley: It depends on what you are looking at. The road building industry would like to use as much recycled aggregates as possible because it is cheaper. The engineering characteristics work and they don’t have to truck out the old material and bring in the new, especially for the base of the road. They usually try to do that as long as state departments of transportation go along with it.

Are there any federal or state programs that provide tax credits for using building materials made from recycled content?

Turley: Not really. They usually offer a sales tax credit for the purchase of recycling equipment. We would love to see tax credits offered for the purchase of building materials made from recycled content. If you want to see an increase in C&D recycling rate, just give us more markets.