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State of the industry: Construction and Demolition Recycling examines four of the most pressing issues facing the C&D industry.

Like most markets, the construction and demolition recycling industry always faces challenges, and this year has been no different. Construction & Demolition Recycling decided to examine in depth four of the major ones that currently face the C&D industry.


The most positive development for recyclers may be the start of the Massachusetts ban on certain constituents of the C&D material stream from going to a landfill before they pass through a recycling center. The ban covers concrete, asphalt, brick, wood, metals and old corrugated containers (OCC). It has been promulgated and will take effect in January 2006.

The ban will certainly change the way C&D is handled in the state. Or will it?

"The industry in general has been anticipating the ban for a number of years," says Dan Costello, president of Costello Dismantling, a major New England demolition firm. "A number of recycling facilities have been developed in anticipation of the ban. We tend to use those facilities exclusively instead of landfills."

The reason for that is twofold, says Costello. First is economics, because disposal costs at recycling centers are almost always less than at landfills. "We drive by landfills to go to recycling because the numbers aren't there," he says. Second is that the customers like to hear that the material generated during their job was recycled. "The customer likes to get a report after a demolition job is done that shows 90-plus percent of the building was recycled and kept out of landfills," says Costello.

While going to recycling centers is "business as usual" for Costello, he senses that most, but not all, of his competitors do the same thing. "There will be a rude awakening if you are not prepared for handling material differently, sorting it, and source separating it," he says.

Even after the effort his company has made for years to sort materials on site, he admits that the company still looks to fine-tune its procedures, "And," he laughs, "We are still looking for that wood magnet to get that wood out of the concrete.

Greg Wirsen of Green Seal Environmental, Sandwich, Mass., agrees that contractors have been positioning itself for years in anticipation of the ban, so it has seen little change in the business lately. "The disposal ban includes concrete, block, brick, asphalt, OCC, metals and wood, and all those markets have been self-sustaining anyway, except for the wood," says Wirsen, who also runs the New England Chapter of the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA). "I expect there will be a lot more competition now for diversionary markets such as alternative daily cover and landfill closure materials. That will drive people to look at other market opportunities, such as energy and more separation of clean wood." The clean wood is more desired by the energy market, but with the ban in place there will be a need to recover all the materials now, creating pressure to market the wood any way possible. This will spur an emphasis on getting the easily used clean wood in more markets, he says.


One state where there is a push on for a similar disposal ban is Florida. It is all part of an effort to get more C&D material recycled by shaking it loose from the control of exclusive waste contracts.

"C&D recyclers have been locked out of markets because of the exclusive franchise agreements throughout the state, which are stumbling blocks to construction and demolition recycling," says Philip Medico, Southern Waste Systems, Lantana, Fla.

These agreements provide a company the right to collect and handle all waste generated within the contracted area, not just residential curbside and commercial municipal solid waste, but also construction and demolition materials. That is because, like most states, Florida state law defines C&D as solid waste.

Virtually all the exclusive agreements are held by the same large waste companies that own much of the state's disposal capacity, says Medico. "Those companies have little incentive and don't want to recycle because their profit margins are substantial when they just dispose," he says.

So the Florida Recyclers Coalition, which is largely made up of C&D processors, worked to get legislation through the Florida Legislature in last year's session that would have changed the definition of solid waste in order to separate it from other materials, "legislation that would have created open and free markets," says Medico.

The measure was voted out of committee, but then both the leaders of the state House and Senate decided to have a study done on C&D issues in the state. That report is almost finished. It is expected the legislation will be reintroduced in the current session that will remove C&D from the solid waste definition, thus freeing it from the exclusive waste agreements that municipalities strike with garbage haulers.

What are its chances? Good, says Medico, despite opposition from the large waste companies and initially from the League of Cities. The issue for the latter is home rule and economic impact, as the municipalities receive a host fee for every ton disposed of. "But the coalition has agreed to pay the fee to make sure there would be no adverse economic impacts," says Medico.

If these options happen in Florida, it is sure to be a banner picked up by recyclers in other states where they are shut out by the exclusive contracts that hinder C&D recycling by leaving control of all the material to landfill-oriented companies with less incentive to recycle.


Possible major revisions to the state's C&D regulations are an issue in Ohio. The state is a major importer of C&D and other waste, and because of low tip fees has a minimal amount of mixed C&D recycling for the size of its population.

Serious negative operational problems at some C&D landfills that have accepted rail hauled waste were highly publicized, and brought broad-brush negative attention to the entire industry. This led to the legislature proposing a moratorium on the issuance of licenses expiring at the end of 2005, and required the formation of a C&D study committee. The committee was made up of 13 members: six from the legislature, six from industry, and one from Ohio EPA. It was tasked with producing a report on the state of C&D disposal in the state.

That report was issued at the end of September, and according to Michael Cyphert, general counsel of the C&D Association of Ohio, surprisingly the recommendations in it received unanimous votes from the committee members.

Setbacks for facilities were recommended to be 500 feet instead of 5,000. No change was recommended on liners, so the landfills will not have to get them. There is now a training program developed by industry that will probably be made mandatory for operators of C&D facilities.

Cyphert expects that some legislation will be introduced based on the report. While he says the C&D association will have to see the proposals before passing judgment, he expects that if it follows the recommendations on the report, most of industry will support it.

For those who ship C&D by rail into Ohio, Cyphert expects little if any effect from the proposed changes. Pulverized material is still banned from Ohio's C&D landfills. The material must be "recognizable" as C&D. Some of the troubled facilities accepted material pulverized to small fines, and there was non C&D material mixed in. However, Cyphert says there was consensus that under the right circumstances with the right assurances, a facility could accept unidentifiable waste. "Just because there are more fines after transporting it, doesn't mean it wasn't legitimate C&D and there is not prohibited materials in it," he says. "So perhaps it is a matter of certifying the originating transfer station [by] getting the proper inspections to be assured it is C&D."

While landfills are predominant in Ohio, Cyphert does think that recycling is a direction the state could take. "There is recognition that it is a desirable outcome, that the landfills or entrepreneurs ought to recycle. It doesn't make sense to put usable products into the ground. Then you save the space for those materials for which there is no recycling value."

He also thinks the legislature ought to look at how it can encourage recycling, although he says a Massachusetts-style ban wouldn't work in Ohio. "Then the haulers would just skip one more state over," Cyphert says.


One developing issue that may really be more of a regulatory pitfall than a real problem for C&D recyclers involves gypsum wallboard made from flue gas de-sulpherization (FGD), a byproduct of the emission control process on coal-burning power plants.

This material has a similar chemical composition to natural gypsum, so many wallboard companies have set up manufacturing plants near coal-burning power plants to use this material. It is a form of recycling, and because the wallboard companies often pay for the material, it makes the pollution control system for the utilities economically viable.

But the EPA is implementing strict new stack emission standards on all power plants, called maximum achievable control technology (MACT), and these rules will affect C&D recyclers in two ways.

First is that the coal plants with an FGD byproduct have to prevent all the mercury and perhaps other contaminants from being emitted. They have chosen to encapsulate the mercury into the FGD, which is then made into wallboard, at levels for now of about 500 to 1,000 parts per billion. As point of reference, the EPA considers soil clean that contains up to 1,000 parts per billion, the same amount that can be in commercial fish that can still be considered edible.

Gypsum industry studies have shown that it is safe for workers to process the FGD into wallboard. But what about construction, demolition and recycling industry workers? There is certainly gypsum dust generated from all those activities, and what happens when the no-longer-encapsulated mercury gets into the air?

At the request of the CMRA, the EPA is currently looking into this issue. However, Terry Gillis of Recovery One, a C&D recycling facility outside of Seattle, has learned from his state worker protection agency (and has a letter from them stating) that at those current levels of mercury in the FGD wallboard, there is little danger to workers even when they are not using protective equipment. They are more likely to die of dust inhalation before the mercury would kill them, he says.

But the potentially bigger issue for mixed C&D recyclers is the effect the MACT emission standards have on the wood fuel market. Existing boiler plants without expensive stack emission controls cannot take in C&D wood with more than 50 parts per billion of mercury, and new ones cannot use material with more than 17 parts per billion, both numbers way under EPA's 1,000 parts per billion for "clean" soil.

So for Gillis, his customer would have had to retrofit $5 million worth of pollution control equipment in order to continue to accept C&D wood. Instead, the customer decided not to take the fuel anymore and rely on other sources. Between that and the fact that much of the gypsum Recovery One was seeing was FGD based, the company no longer accepts demolition material and has curtailed operations to almost nothing.

The emission standards are silly, Gillis says. "I asked the EPA how they came up with those numbers for boilers, and they responded that they surveyed the industry and found that the top 12 percent averaged those levels."

But that should not have been the way the levels were set, he adds. "The methodology they used to come up with their numbers is totally wrong, and it could result in a bad rule on either end," Gillis says. "In our case it was a bad rule because it was overprotective, but it just as easily could have resulted in a rule that was spewing out toxic emissions because they didn't use science to figure out where they were going to be with their number. Heck, an accountant could do what they did."

Gillis' solution is simple: "In recognition of the environmental benefits of C&D recycling, the EPA must encourage the use of wood-derived fuel generated from demolition debris and offer environmental credits to boiler operators who choose to use recycled product rather than consuming fossil fuels. Forcing the boiler operators to install expensive environmental controls so they can continue using the recycled material is killing the C&D recycling opportunity in Washington state."

The author is associate publisher of Construction & Demolition Recycling and executive director of the CMRA. He can be reached at
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Title Annotation:State of the Industry
Author:Turley, William
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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