Best Practices for Proper Disposal of Construction Debris

It’s exciting for area homeowners to complete a renovation on their home, whether they complete the project themselves or hire a contractor to do it for them. However, sometimes homeowners throw construction and demolition materials into a trash can because they’re uncertain of what to do with it. Many states, including California, have strict laws against this practice. Contractors and homeowners who engage in it could find themselves subject to fines and other legal consequences.

What Constitutes Construction and Demolition Waste?

Waste is a broad term that covers at least the following three categories:

  • Debris such as asphalt, concrete, and rubble from bridges, highways, and other large civic projects
  • Demolition and remodeling debris such as appliances, brick, insulation, fixtures, plaster, and wood from old buildings
  • New construction waste such as packaging and scrap material

While it’s possible to recycle a lot of construction and demolition waste, some of it is hazardous and therefore not eligible to recycle. It’s up to contractors working on a site or homeowners completing their own projects to know what to throw away or recycle in addition to arranging for the disposal of hazardous waste.

Best Practices for Construction Contractors to Dispose of Waste

A contractor making a statement that he or she wants to reduce on-the-job waste isn’t helpful because it’s much too vague. It’s better for the contractor to start with smaller, easy-to-attain goals that are also specific and measurable. How this works in practice is to establish a waste reduction goal of a certain percentage. For example, the contractor could tell others at the start of a new project about the goal to recycle at least 50 percent of the waste that the team produces.

After establish a waste reduction goal, the next step is to create a plan to reach it. The first thing to do is survey the types of materials used for the job and determine right away which ones are recyclable. It’s typically easy to recycle the following:

  • Cardboard
  • Concrete
  • Construction debris
  • Drywall
  • Metal
  • Pellets
  • Plastics
  • Roofing
  • Wood

Knowing from the start of the project which materials to recycle allows the foreman to arrange for recycle bins and pick-ups. Lastly, it’s important to get the entire team on board with the project to ensure a successful outcome. Homeowners will need to contact their city government to determine how much construction debris and demolition hauling material they can recycle at one time. It’s possible they may need to deliver some of it themselves due to the limited pick-up at residential addresses.

Design for Better Adaptability to Avoid Waste

While recycling a high percentage of construction and demolition materials is admirable, it’s even better not to produce this waste in the first place. The push for green building practices has caused some building contractors to modify the way they do business. Some of the strategies already in place include developing structural systems using an open plan, using more durable materials, and switching to mechanical fasteners such as bolts, nails, and screws rather than adhesives and sealants.

Contractors are in a unique position to set a positive example to their communities with their recycling and smart building practices. Homeowners will realize that if a large company can do it that they can as well.