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Phoenix
Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Waste Not, Want Not

Construction Waste By William Janhonen, LEEP AP, NAHB-CGP, CPM

I want you to think of a Snickers bar (my personal favorite). When you pay $1 for the candy bar, you are paying for the caramel and nuts, chocolate and nougat, packaging and marketing, shipping and profit to the retailer selling it. After you eat the Snickers bar, what do you do with the wrapper? You throw it away and nowhere in the price of the candy bar exists a cost to deal with the waste. Multiply this example by millions of consumer products, and you start to see the enormous effect waste has on our economy and the environment.

 The U.S. was built upon the success of guaranteed Planned Obsolescence. If your toaster broke down tomorrow, would you send it to the repairman to have it fixed, or just buy a new one? Our economy since the industrial revolution was geared to making things faster and shinier and cheaper. No thought was given to where all of the materials came from or where they went when their lifetime ended. In 1960, only 6.4 percent of U.S. waste was recycled. By 2006, the amount had climbed to 32.5 percent.

Consider these astonishing numbers. If your child is under 10 years old today, by the time he or she reaches age 40, there will be an additional 2 billion people on this planet. That is equal to another China and India. All of those individuals will be vying for a limited amount of source materials, which includes non-renewable resources like fossil fuels. In 2006, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions produced more than 251 million tons of solid waste, a 65 percent increase since 1980. The average house construction generates 2.4 tons of waste. What will be the result of our future waste production without addressing waste management today?

How much waste is coming into the landfill? Matt Morales, P.E., Project Manager of Cinder Lake Landfill in Flagstaff, reported that from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, by combining municipal and private haulers, from commercial and residential sites, 18,106 tons of waste ended at their landfill.

Reducing waste is an important component of sustainable practices. In its solid waste management hierarchy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks source reduction, reuse and recycling as the three preferred strategies for reducing waste. Source reduction appears at the top of the EPA’s hierarchy because it minimizes environmental impacts throughout the material’s life cycle, from the supply chain and use to recycling and waste disposal. Reuse of materials is ranked second because reused materials are diverted from landfills and substitute for other materials with greater environmental impacts. Recycling does not have all the same benefits as source reduction and reuse, but it diverts waste from landfills and incinerators and lessens the demand for virgin materials.

Source reduction and decreasing the demand for virgin materials is the most economical way to reduce waste. Unnecessary packaging adds to a product’s cost and fees for waste collection and disposal. Cut-off lumber from stick-build construction generates waste that can be avoided by creating cut lists to suppliers who can reuse for projects.

Reuse of existing buildings vs. new construction is a very effective strategy for reducing environmental impact. The more of a building that can be reused, the less new material is needed and the more waste can be diverted from landfills. Reuse of materials for other purposes is also a convenient strategy. When Shea Stadium was torn down, the toilets were given to the New York City Parks Department for reuse in the city’s parks. Marble partitions from restrooms at Columbia University, in New York City, were reused to make lab countertops.

Recycling has taken a new direction since a few decades ago. Separation at the construction jobsite allows the recycling of concrete, wood, gypsum wallboard, steel, masonry, cardboard, brick and tile. Even asphalt shingles can be recycled these days. Recycling materials have differing values due to price fluctuation and availability of virgin materials.

Here locally, Sundt Construction is active in direct waste reduction for their projects. In a most recent and completed project, the University of Arizona Recreation Center Expansion, Sundt was able to recycle over 90 percent of their construction waste. This means that “2,768,380 of the 3,072,952 pounds of debris were diverted from landfills and recycled,” Tom Rice of Sundt said. When diverting waste, more than one recycling hauler might be involved. Joining with Sundt, for the U of A project, Sierra Mining and Crushing was able to divert 1,072 tons of inert materials from the site demolition; additionally Waste Management was able to divert around 224 tons of inert materials, 24 tons of wood and 57 tons of metal.

“Sundt has taken a very practical role in both reducing the construction waste directly [by recycling] but also in eliminating the amount of materials used on site,” Rice said.

Diverting construction waste is yet one more step to preserving our natural resources, tapping into the methodology of reuse, and decreasing the number of new landfills needed to handle our waste. 

I want you to think of a Snickers bar (my personal favorite). When you pay $1 for the candy bar, you are paying for the caramel and nuts, chocolate and nougat, packaging and marketing, shipping and profit to the retailer selling it. After you eat the Snickers bar, what do you do with the wrapper? You throw it away and nowhere in the price of the candy bar exists a cost to deal with the waste. Multiply this example by millions of consumer products, and you start to see the enormous effect waste has on our economy and the environment.

 The U.S. was built upon the success of guaranteed Planned Obsolescence. If your toaster broke down tomorrow, would you send it to the repairman to have it fixed, or just buy a new one? Our economy since the industrial revolution was geared to making things faster and shinier and cheaper. No thought was given to where all of the materials came from or where they went when their lifetime ended. In 1960, only 6.4 percent of U.S. waste was recycled. By 2006, the amount had climbed to 32.5 percent.

Consider these astonishing numbers. If your child is under 10 years old today, by the time he or she reaches age 40, there will be an additional 2 billion people on this planet. That is equal to another China and India. All of those individuals will be vying for a limited amount of source materials, which includes non-renewable resources like fossil fuels. In 2006, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions produced more than 251 million tons of solid waste, a 65 percent increase since 1980. The average house construction generates 2.4 tons of waste. What will be the result of our future waste production without addressing waste management today?

How much waste is coming into the landfill? Matt Morales, P.E., Project Manager of Cinder Lake Landfill in Flagstaff, reported that from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, by combining municipal and private haulers, from commercial and residential sites, 18,106 tons of waste ended at their landfill.

Reducing waste is an important component of sustainable practices. In its solid waste management hierarchy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks source reduction, reuse and recycling as the three preferred strategies for reducing waste. Source reduction appears at the top of the EPA’s hierarchy because it minimizes environmental impacts throughout the material’s life cycle, from the supply chain and use to recycling and waste disposal. Reuse of materials is ranked second because reused materials are diverted from landfills and substitute for other materials with greater environmental impacts. Recycling does not have all the same benefits as source reduction and reuse, but it diverts waste from landfills and incinerators and lessens the demand for virgin materials.

Source reduction and decreasing the demand for virgin materials is the most economical way to reduce waste. Unnecessary packaging adds to a product’s cost and fees for waste collection and disposal. Cut-off lumber from stick-build construction generates waste that can be avoided by creating cut lists to suppliers who can reuse for projects.

Reuse of existing buildings vs. new construction is a very effective strategy for reducing environmental impact. The more of a building that can be reused, the less new material is needed and the more waste can be diverted from landfills. Reuse of materials for other purposes is also a convenient strategy. When Shea Stadium was torn down, the toilets were given to the New York City Parks Department for reuse in the city’s parks. Marble partitions from restrooms at Columbia University, in New York City, were reused to make lab countertops.

Recycling has taken a new direction since a few decades ago. Separation at the construction jobsite allows the recycling of concrete, wood, gypsum wallboard, steel, masonry, cardboard, brick and tile. Even asphalt shingles can be recycled these days. Recycling materials have differing values due to price fluctuation and availability of virgin materials.

Here locally, Sundt Construction is active in direct waste reduction for their projects. In a most recent and completed project, the University of Arizona Recreation Center Expansion, Sundt was able to recycle over 90 percent of their construction waste. This means that “2,768,380 of the 3,072,952 pounds of debris were diverted from landfills and recycled,” Tom Rice of Sundt said. When diverting waste, more than one recycling hauler might be involved. Joining with Sundt, for the U of A project, Sierra Mining and Crushing was able to divert 1,072 tons of inert materials from the site demolition; additionally Waste Management was able to divert around 224 tons of inert materials, 24 tons of wood and 57 tons of metal.

“Sundt has taken a very practical role in both reducing the construction waste directly [by recycling] but also in eliminating the amount of materials used on site,” Rice said.

Diverting construction waste is yet one more step to preserving our natural resources, tapping into the methodology of reuse, and decreasing the number of new landfills needed to handle our waste.

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