Trend Setters: Recovering C&D

The key to lessening landfill dependency isn't simply recovering materials, but being able to sell what you recover. As a result, municipalities have targeted a recoverable portion of the waste stream with good end-markets: construction and demolition (C&D) debris. Not only is C&D highly recyclable, it also represents between 15 percent and 30 percent of all waste headed to landfills.

There currently are a variety of C&D recovery programs. Some local governments require C&D diversion or contractors to recycle these materials. Others create guidelines for developers and contractors, provide technical assistance, and conduct education and outreach programs instead of creating regulations. Each program, however, should be tailored to the needs of the community.

Frequent trend setters in the waste industry, communities in California have instituted several C&D recovery policies and practices. For example:

City of Los Angeles Since the early 1990s, the city of Los Angeles (L.A.) has conducted a hybrid voluntary-mandatory program to promote C&D recycling. Using a three-pronged approach, the city has focused on buildings that it controls directly; city-influenced developments, such as projects subject to Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs); and private sector projects.

For example, Los Angeles' Public Works Department spends more than $100 million per year on building developments. The city's Harbor, Airport, Water and Power Departments have comparable annual capital budgets.

To maximize and track C&D recycling, the Public Works Department requires contractors to submit a Solid Resources Management Plan after winning a bid and prior to construction. Additionally, contractors must submit a summary of diversion and disposal with each application for progress payment.

L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency targeted larger developments. For example, the agency required the Staples Center Arena developers to submit a C&D recycling plan and tonnage summaries during demolition and construction phases.

Additionally, the city has conducted extensive public education programs, as well as outreach programs about C&D for the building industry. L.A has provided direct technical assistance to contractors, distributed booklets on C&D recycling as well as construction product recycling guides, sponsored a series of presentations and workshops, and closely interacted with industry associations such as the Construction Specifications Institute.

The city's outreach program has received many awards. However, because the program is voluntary, the city has had a limited opportunity to measure its effectiveness, particularly with private sector projects.

City of Santa Monica Santa Monica's Green Building Development Guidelines address transportation, energy efficiency, water conservation, materials selection, construction waste management and other environmental design aspects. Some of the programs described in the guidelines, including a 50 percent C&D waste recycling requirement, hazardous materials management, stormwater runoff reduction and submission of a solid waste management plan currently are being drafted as city ordinances.

The guidelines also incorporate voluntary construction practices, such as using pre-engineered materials to reduce onsite waste.

Town of Atherton Located in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California, the town of Atherton primarily is residential. Consequently, C&D activities center on home improvements and new residential construction.

Atherton has imposed ordinances for C&D recycling and diversion, which requires that every demolition project be available for deconstruction, salvage and recovery prior to demolition. Owners and contractors must recycle 50 percent of demolition debris, including concrete and asphalt; 15 percent of debris other than concrete and asphalt; 50 percent of roofing shingles; and 50 percent of new construction materials.

Additionally, contractors are required to submit a Recycling and Waste Reduction Form to the town's Building Department when applying for a building or demolition permit. The form estimates recyclable and disposable materials quantities that the project will produce, and the contractor is required to post a cash deposit of $50 for each ton of recyclable material, equaling no less than $5,000.

The contractor must demonstrate that he recycled the estimated tonnage to receive a deposit refund. If he does not meet his estimated goal, the town keeps a portion of his deposit.

The Town of Hillsborough Also located in the San Francisco Bay area, the town of Hillsborough requires contractors to submit a Waste Reduction Plan to its Director of Public Works to obtain a building or demolition permit. If the plan is satisfactory, the town will issue a Waste Reduction Permit that mirrors the Waste Reduction Plan.

Sacramento, Capitol Area East End Complex During the next three years, the state of California will construct a $293 million complex of five office buildings, with approximately 2 million square feet of space.

During project construction, the state will institute a green building program governed by various representatives from the Department of General Services, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the California Energy Commission, the Department of Health Services, the Air Resources Board and the Department of Water Resources.

When the state requested proposals for a project developer, regulators included green standards that address water conservation, C&D recovery, waste management, reuse of recycled materials, alternative energy sources, indoor air quality and recharging stations for electric vehicles. The demolition contractor also is required to recycle 75 percent of the C&D debris generated during the demolition of existing buildings.

These requirements already have been incorporated into subcontractor specifications for the project's demolition phase. Also, new construction project specifications must meet the recycling specification in the project's General Requirements.

Additionally, for all of the new buildings, a list of recycled-content construction products has been developed that includes recycled plastic site amenities, carpeting, tiles, signs and other materials.

City of Hawthorne The city of Hawthorne, Calif., awarded an exclusive franchise for C&D debris to its existing hauler in July 1999 to meet state-ordered year 2000 mandates. Contractors that self-haul C&D using their own equipment and labor forces are excluded from the franchise requirement.

By focusing on C&D diversion along with other diversion efforts, such as multifamily recycling, the city anticipated that it could increase its recycling rate.

The city of Alhambra, Calif., also requires C&D recycling as part of its new franchise agreements, which will go into effect after July 2000.

Programs in the Works The city of San Jose, Calif., has proposed a program to require contractors to post a deposit for the estimated recyclable materials in their C&D work. When the program is adopted, the city will retain deposited amounts for any non-recycled materials and use those funds to operate its C&D diversion program.

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority has developed a draft model ordinance to encourage developers and contractors to recycle C&D materials. It will require contractors with projects exceeding a given square footage to divert a minimum of 50 percent of their construction waste materials from the landfill, and to submit a waste management plan for projects.

Applicants will be required to submit proof that materials have been recycled or reused. This model ordinance will be standardized so that all of the cities in Alameda County will be able to modify it and adopt a specific ordinance for their own use.

C&D Presents Opportunities Municipalities have an opportunity to achieve high diversion rates by reusing and recycling C&D. Public education, technical assistance and industry outreach may make sense in some areas. However, voluntary, incentive-based programs are more difficult to document and may have less influence on the outcome and effectiveness of a C&D recycling program.

On the other hand, mandatory approaches such as advance deposits and submittal of recycling plans with permit applications have their own set of issues. For example, if contractors are required to estimate recyclable quantities of C&D materials on a project as a basis for refundable deposits, the municipalities must be able to verify the accuracy of those estimates.

And when contractors submit tonnage C&D recycling data, staff will be required to evaluate data, resolve discrepancies and record information.

Consider this before implementing a mandatory program based on recyclable quantities:

* What happens if a contractor submits a C&D waste diversion plan with its application for a building permit and a municipality rejects it?

* Will the building permit or certificate of occupancy be denied?

As a municipality adopts regulations, these questions must be evaluated clearly so that contractor requirements are effective, equitable and practical for all parties involved.

Here are a few elements that are essential to developing and managing a good C&D recovery plan.

1. Ordinances and Policy Statements. Support from the city council, the district government and other decision-makers is crucial to the success of any C&D program. Ordinances, resolutions and motions provide a foundation and define the program's goals. With clear instructions from high-level decision-makers, department managers and lower-level staff will be able to implement policies without confusion.

2. Best Management Practices. A list of standards, performance guidelines and procedures - best management practices (BMPs) - must be established to ensure that the program is implemented efficiently. These discreet procedures might include site pre-assessments, techniques for identifying recoverable materials and other practical aspects of management. Some municipalities choose to combine the BMPs for C&D recovery with other related BMPs. In these cases, the combined BMPs list might include everything from stormwater runoff procedures to site safety and site security measures.

3. Timelines. Even with high-level support, public policies can end up stagnating without a clear description of how and when procedures will be implemented. In creating a timeline, regulators should identify financial and staff resources, set project milestones and develop a schedule for project completion. The timeline also should include processes that monitor success and identify areas needing improvement.

4. Reporting and Documentation. C&D diversion programs rely heavily on contractors to report and document results. To avoid confusion, reporting should be quantifiable rather than qualitative. Results should be reported in tons, cubic yards or other standard measuring units.

Detailed program descriptions can be a valuable tool for understanding diversion procedures. However, descriptive information alone is inadequate for measuring a program's effectiveness. Narrative reports, however, often tend to be too general.

Diversion of C&D materials (excluding C&D materials contaminated with hazardous substances) is a key strategy for reaching landfill waste diversion goals. This is because :

* C&D can be a significant portion of the waste stream, ranging from 15 percent to 30 percent;

* C&D materials are heavy and high in volume;

* C&D materials are highly recyclable;

* There are well-established C&D processing technologies, improved equipment and new systems continue to come online;

* There are good end-uses and markets for most types of C&D materials;

* C&D materials can be source-separated, transported, and processed cost-effectively;

* C&D recycling centers provide good business and job creation opportunities; and

* Costs for processing C&D materials often are much lower than the cost of landfilling them.

Municipalities should be aware of several important factors when franchising C&D debris:

* The franchisee should be familiar with and have a background in recycling the materials.

* The franchisee should submit a detailed plan of how it will divert the various types of debris.

* Municipalities should consider excluding self-haul by contractors who employ their own trucks and use their own staff for hauling C&D debris. The definition of self-haul should be clear so that contractors are not allowed to sub-contract their hauling services to trucking companies and haulers other than the franchisee.

* The franchisee must demonstrate that it has the capacity to handle C&D contracts ranging from small jobs to heavy projects. In the event of very large demolition projects, the franchisee should clearly demonstrate how it will subcontract trucking services to recycle large volumes of debris. Proper notice should be given to contractors, an education program should be put in place to inform contractors that they are to use the franchisee, and under what conditions franchisees might be excluded by self haul.

Municipalities that want to enforce construction and demolition (C&D) recycling should implement one or more of the following:

1. Local Ordinances. Establishing local ordinances that require contractors to reuse and recycle a certain percentage of C&D waste can be an effective diversion strategy. To ensure these ordinances' success, municipalities may designate recycling as a condition that contractors must meet before obtaining a C&D permit or a certificate of occupancy.

2. Local Conditions of Approval. Some municipalities have established conditions of approval, which list the C&D recovery guidelines contractors must follow to receive building approval. These conditions are included during the land development review. They apply to entitlements and subdivisions, and include infrastructure improvements and other special requirements.

3. Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Measures. When development projects require an EIR, regulators look at solid waste impacts to determine how much C&D debris the new project will generate, and how the project will affect local landfills. Some municipalities have written solid waste mitigation measures in the EIR, requiring the developers and contractors to recycle C&D debris. In these cases, however, local planning agencies can override the measures if the value of the development outweighs the environmental concerns.

Municipalities committed to requiring C&D recovery should indicate that mitigation measures are not subject to overriding considerations.

4. Construction Specifications. For individual projects that rely on contractors and subcontractors to recycle C&D debris, municipalities can write construction specifications in a standard three-part format. The first part is a set of general recycling guidelines; the second is the contractor's C&D diversion plan, which must be submitted prior to construction; and the third is a C&D diversion and disposal report that is submitted during construction, along with progress payment requests.

C&D recycling specifications should be included in the General Requirements section.of construction contract documents.

The availability of C&D recycling facilities varies. Consequently, C&D policies and practices must take into consideration local resources. Following is a description of processing technologies available in the United States.

1. Salvage for On- and Off-Site Use. Materials such as historic fabric and architectural items from historic buildings can be recovered prior to demolition, stored, reconditioned and incorporated into new structures. Light fixtures, wood partition walls and decorative masonry units are materials whose value and aesthetic appeal warrant the time and expense required to reuse them.

Non-historic items in good condition, including electrical conduits and carpet pieces, also have been reused in buildings such as the Southern California Gas Company's Energy Resource Center in Downey, Calif.

2. Dismantling Prior to Demolition. By dismantling a building prior to mechanical demolition, municipalities can recover a wealth of materials such as old-growth timbers, red brick and windows for reuse and recycling. These materials can be transported to other building projects or sold.

For example, the Metropolitan Waste Authority in Portland, Ore., conducted a salvage operation prior to the selective demolition of an old Sears, Roebuck and Co. store. By allowing a local lumber company to recover the Sears store's hardwood flooring, the authority not only diverted the flooring from the landfill, but it also provided a business opportunity for the lumber company.

The barriers to dismantling are labor rates, time limitations and liability concerns. Deconstruction can take weeks or months, depending on the size and scope of the project, and many insurance companies will not cover deconstruction workers not employed by the contractor.

3. On-Site Crushing and Grinding. Mechanical processing equipment for C&D materials rapidly is becoming more sophisticated and cost-effective. Processing materials such as concrete can be crushed for use onsite or transported offsite for reuse. Wood and green waste materials also can be ground onsite, saving landfill tipping fees and transportation costs.

When materials are reused onsite, the costs of buying and shipping new materials are eliminated. Also, avoiding trips to the landfill reduces harmful emissions. For example, the Playa Vista development in the Marina Del Rey area of Los Angeles processed more than 60,000 tons of concrete and asphalt for reuse as base material at the site, thereby avoiding more than 3,000 trips to the landfill.

4. Source Separation for Off-Site Processing. Building projects are completed in phases, starting with site construction, continuing with roof installation and ending with interior finish work. Materials generated during new construction, therefore, may yield homogenous loads of debris such as lumber during framing and drywall during sheetrock installation.

Similarly, demolition produces mixed debris during bulldozing operations, and concrete, asphalt and green materials during site clearance. Consequently, C&D debris can be source-separated cost-effectively during the different construction, deconstruction and demolition phases.

For instance, when using high capacity equipment, contractors can extract recyclable materials from mixed debris and place these materials in source-separated, roll-off containers or trucks for offsite processing.

Depending on the location, recycling facilities for source-separated materials such as concrete, asphalt, soils, red clay brick, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, cable and wire, drywall, lumber, green materials, cardboard and mixed debris may exist. Reclamation opportunities also are expanding for carpeting, ceiling tiles and asphalt roofing shingles.

5. Mixed C&D Debris Loads for Off-Site Processing. Due to space constraints, the lack of similar loads and the lack of source-separated facilities, many contractors find that generating mixed C&D debris loads is the most cost-effective option.

Mixed C&D processing facilities are becoming more prevalent across the United States. In many cases, these facilities have a simple setup: C&D debris is dumped on the sorting floor and removed with loaders, grappling equipment, by hand or on conveying systems with picking stations. In addition to this basic operation, such facilities may have grinders or a crushing plant for processing large volumes of concrete, asphalt, and wood and green waste materials.

Some facilities have more advanced, automated setups, which use loaders with grapplers and pulverizing heads, as well as high-capacity mechanical equipment including screeners, horizontal grinders or tub grinders, conveyor systems, vibrating floors and flotation tanks.

These automated systems still may employ picking stations with manual sorting. While basic processing setups may only achieve a C&D recovery rate of 50 percent or less, automated setups may achieve recovery rates as high as 90 percent.

To justify the expense of building and operating an automated system, however, facilities require a steady stream of C&D materials to generate tipping fee revenues.