DEMOLITION WASTE RECYCLING AND ITS BENEFITS
Rapid urbanization and population growth have increased the demand for new urban environments and infrastructure. While roads, buildings and bridges are renovated and renewed, massive amounts of construction and demolition waste is generated around the world. To cope with both rising stockpiles of waste and yet growing need for raw materials, governments have started to impose new environmental regulations encouraging to use recycled materials instead of natural resources.
Waste rarely is a good news. The silver lining, however, is that construction and demolition waste is not in the end of its lifecycle, quite the opposite. It is an endless source of raw materials for various purposes and products.
Demolition waste comprises multiple economically valuable materials such as reusable aggregates, bitumen, brick, cardboard, concrete, metals, mineral wool and wood, many of which can be sold directly or used in new products, construction materials or in energy production. In an optimal case this waste is processed near the demolition site, making the discarded matter a continuous stream of raw materials for new roads, buildings, bridges and urban landscape.
Recovering as much materials as possible also has another benefit. Oftentimes, heavy and bulky waste is expensive to dump in landfills or store in stockpiles. The larger the proportion of materials reused, the greater are the savings in waste management costs.
Many of the challenges in processing construction and demolition waste are caused by the variable properties of the materials. By nature, the waste generated at demolition sites is bulky and often heavy, which increases transportation costs. Reducing the waste to smaller and uniform grain size makes it easier and faster to handle. Furthermore, the different materials can be separated from each other earlier in the recycling process, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity.
The closer the worksite this processing is done, the less there is need for expensive and time-consuming loading, unloading, and truck traffic to and from the site, which not only costs but also generates unnecessary emissions and safety risks for the workers.
Benefits of Reducing the Disposal of C&D Materials
Reducing the amount of C&D materials disposed of in landfills or incinerators can:
- Create employment and economic activities in recycling industries and provide increased business opportunities within the local community, especially when deconstruction and selective demolition methods are used.
- EPA’s 2016 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report showed that in 2012 the recycling of C&D materials created 175,000 jobs.
- Reduce overall building project expenses through avoided purchase/disposal costs, and the donation of recovered materials to qualified 501(c)(3) charities, which provides a tax benefit. Onsite reuse also reduces transportation costs.
- Lead to fewer disposal facilities, potentially reducing the associated environmental issues.
- Offset the environmental impact associated with the extraction and consumption of virgin resources and production of new materials.
- Conserve landfill space.
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