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Easy being green: with education and planning, C&D recycling can easily earn LEED points for green building.

Construction and demolition debris recycling may be the key to keeping costs down while constructing environmentally friendly buildings.

Wisconsin has seen a growing number of green buildings in the last few years, and now the state's number of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified buildings has reached eight. WasteCap Wisconsin, a statewide non-profit organization located in Milwaukee and Madison, has worked with four of these eight projects to help achieve LEED certification points through C&D debris management.

"Waste recycling is valuable.... especially where we are dealing with large amounts of materials," says Barbara Monk, marketing coordinator for the Bentley Corp. in Milwaukee. "Construction waste recycling is in its infancy and is something that I believe we will see more and more of in the coming years," says Monk regarding the state of C&D recycling in Wisconsin.

Mike Waiters, sustainable systems and energy analyst with Affiliated Engineers Inc. in Madison, says working with experts on construction and demolition material recycling helps to build a solid waste management plan.

"Education is the key to success," says Waiters. "We have weekly or monthly meetings to make sure everyone's on track."


A construction material management plan should be designed before construction or demolition begins, and all site workers should be given instructions on what to do with scrap materials.

The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center worked with WasteCap Wisconsin in 2000 on demolishing its old nature center and building a new LEED-certified one. WasteCap Wisconsin developed a waste management plan for the 34,000-square-foot construction project that eliminated over three-quarters of its total waste by weight and reduced its disposal costs by almost one-half, resulting in a savings of more than $6,500.

"One of the best benefits of a recycling program is some cost savings, usually in the thousands of dollars," says Waiters. "And you can do a lot of environmental good." Waiters says most projects now reach recycling rates of at least 60 percent.

Besides environmental benefits and cost savings, C&D recycling carries other benefits.

"Recycling sites are the cleanest job sites that I can remember," says Monique Charlier, division vice president of the Jansen Group Inc. in Milwaukee, who worked on the Schlitz Audubon Center. Charlier says that workers at recycling sites seem to have a sense of responsibility to keep the site organized.

Monk says that implementing a recycling program on a construction or demo site is simple, and "similar to what we do in our homes where we want to separate plastic containers from aluminum from paper."


Setting up a construction debris management plan requires the cooperation of the owner, contractor, subcontractors and architects. Staff must be educated on recycling basics so that they know what can and cannot be recycled and reused and where to place all recyclable materials. Dumpsters should be monitored throughout the construction project to make sure the site stays organized.

Recycling construction debris adds little or no extra time per week for an entire jobsite. Clearly labeling dumpsters helps ensure that materials are kept in the appropriate containers, which will reduce the need to sort through dumpsters.

Recycling bins tend to be less expensive than trash containers, and over a one-year period it is possible to reduce disposal costs by tens of thousands of dollars with a waste management plan. Some construction-site materials that may qualify as recyclables are cardboard, untreated wood, concrete, drywall, scrap metal, asphalt, brick and even cans and bottles and clean paper.

"Any project of significant scale is a great candidate for a waste management plan," says Waiters.

There are several resources available to help develop waste management plans within Wisconsin alone, including WasteCap Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance and the Department of Natural Resources. WasteCap Wisconsin will hold its Construction and Demolition Waste Management and Recycling Training Program on Sept. 26 to train professionals involved in the building process how to set up and manage waste management plans. More information is available at

The author is the communications intern at WasteCap Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis., and even be contacted at
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Title Annotation:CASE STUDY
Author:Schmitt, Katherine
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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