Thursday, April 9, 2009

Construction Waste Management

Our waste management plan utilizes the services of Construction Waste Recyclers of Texas, and we try to recycle at least 80% of our construction waste. We accomplish this by educating our subcontractors and site cleaning crews about our program, with the help of Fred Thornhill, who owns the recycling and waste management company. We establish waste areas, recycled content areas, and have large barrels with trash bags on site, all labeled bilingually. By utilizing Optimum Value Engineering practices, we use less lumber, and therefore are able to create less waste in the framing stages. By separating the waste and recyclable materials, it is easier to determine how much waste is being created, as opposed to simply throwing all waste into a dumpster. The average 2000 square foot home typically produces approximately 8000 pounds of waste, so by recycling diligently, we are able to diver 6000-7000 pounds of trash from every home we build away from our landfills. While we still have issues with off site waste being brought onto the job site, the lack of a large dumpster has minimized the impact of neighborhood trash on our job sites.

What is recyclable and what is waste? We are able to recycle on site all brush, trees, and land clearing debris, lumber scraps, drywall, rock or brick waste, concrete and plaster spoils, tile cuts, wood flooring scraps, and composite shingles. The scraps and leftovers from all of these products are ground up on site and are available for immediate use on site. Lumber scraps create mulch which is used for soil erosion control, for walkways around the site to minimize the tracking of mud onto the slab, and to build up low spots on the site. Drywall is ground into dust that can be tilled into the soil on site similar to adding lime to the sub grade. All of the other hardscape spoils and the composite shingles are ground into a base type material that is used to stabilize driveway and sidewalk sub grades. In the event that we have no place or no more use for the recycled content on a particular site, we will work with other contractors to distribute the materials on other sites. Any materials that have no other place to go are delivered to a composting site. Fred and his crew recycle all aluminum, metal, cardboard, insulation, plastic, and vinyl at locations around town, and document the tonnage of what is ground, what is recycled off site, and what actually has to go to the landfill. Any leftover building materials that we can't use on other projects are recycled through Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, Goodwill, and other similar facilities. We typically leave at least a quart of every paint used on the home for the home owner to use for any touch up jobs, and store most paint in our off site warehouse facility for up to a year. After a year, we take the leftover paints to the City of Austin Hazardous Waste Facility.

As the City of Austin moves towards implementing a Zero Waste Initiative over the coming years, it will be incumbent on builders and remodelers to realize how much waste they create, and how they can divert as much waste as possible into something other than our landfills. It will also become the responsibility of home owners and investors to require their contractors to conform to these more stringent Construction Waste Management standards. After the initial education of subcontractors that are not use to this type of program, and re-tooling take off and engineering processes to eliminate waste before materials are delivered t the site, a good contractor will realize that a program like this makes sense both from and environmental and economical viewpoint.


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