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Striving for more: C&D recyclers are learning how to market greater varieties of material.

Entering 2005, the recycling and reuse of construction and demolition materials remains a viable and growing industry that provides taxpaying jobs and profits in an environmentally friendly industry. However, the industry still faces serious issues and sometimes makes mistakes.

What follows is one view on what is happening in C&D recycling from an advantageous vantage point. But the old saying that opinions are like hearts--everyone has one--is true. If you disagree with anything written here, or would like to amplify or expand on any of these points, I would like to hear from you.

The Construction Materials Recycling Association has addressed or is surely aware of many of the issues to be detailed here. With the support of the industry, the CMRA can help solve some of the problems while promoting the positives.


Questions remain concerning the recycling of concrete with paint on it. Some states ban the practice because the concrete might include lead-based paint (LBP).

Estimates are that millions of tons of concrete are disposed of nationally every year because of these regulations, which vary from state to state. Nobody disputes that lead is a carcinogen and needs to be handled with respect. However, it is a naturally occurring substance and is all around us at background levels.

Indeed, a study early in 2004 supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and co-sponsored by the CMRA and the National Demolition Association (NDA) showed that concrete with relatively low levels of LBP on it can be recycled safely (see Construction &Demolition Recycling, March/April 2004, p. 44). A few precautions need to be taken, but there was no evidence of any threat of lead to the employees at the plant, nor was it being spread throughout the local area.

The next step is seeing if this is true for buildings with higher levels of LBP on them. But even if the CMRA or the NDA were to perform such a study, its credibility may be challenged because of perceived partisanship. Fortunately, the U.S. EPA has ex pressed an interest in this subject and may work with the CMRA on such a review.

A Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study looked at the barriers to state departments of transportation using recycling concrete in highway projects. Five states were examined closely as to their use of recycled concrete in highway environments, and the results can be examined at

Some might disagree with the general conclusions, such as, "Concrete is routinely being recycled into the highway environment in the United States," including the color-coded maps on the Web site that purport to show what states use recycled concrete, especially for roadbase. What certain states say to the FHWA and what they really allow in their contract specifications are two different things, as many concrete recyclers will tell you. Nonetheless, the study could be considered an overall success, if only because it got recyclers and state DOT engineers in the same room with FHWA personnel in order to get an honest dialogue of what was really going on in the state in regards to concrete recycling. (A presentation on the FHWA study will be part of the main concrete and asphalt recycling session at ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas March 15-19, 2005, and an abbreviated talk on the subject will be part of the CMRA's Annual Meeting March 16 at the Treasure Island Resort as part of the show.)

However, state DOTs and some municipalities are still resistant to using recycled concrete in the highway environment. Too


A potential advocate for recycled aggregates and a person to watch is Cecil Jones, the state materials engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Jones is also the new chair of the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Official's Subcommittee on Recycled Materials.

He has stated a willingness to find ways to use all recycled materials, including recycled concrete as roadbase, and has shown an openness to listen to new ideas and to find ways to properly use recycled products in roadwork. He will also be part of the a panel on concrete and asphalt recycling that will convene at the 2005 ConExpo-ConAgg event.

Another major personnel change among government officials involved in C&D occurred in 2004 when Ken Sandier took another position within U.S. EPA. His replacement is Gwen DiPietro, a chemical engineer previously involved in hazardous waste issues for the agency. Her phone number is (703) 308-8285 and her e-mail address is many of them just pay lip service to using recycled materials. Most of it stems from a belief by the engineers specifying the materials to be used in our highways that they have a responsibility to the public to use materials that will work in order to keep costs down. They do have that responsibility, but hundreds of real-life examples and studies have shown the material works as a base product, yet many of these engineers stubbornly refuse to use the material.

To try to help educate everyone about concrete recycling, including the engineering characteristics of the material, markets and related literature and studies, the CMRA is putting together a new Web site, This project will probably be finished in mid-2005.


Concrete, asphalt and brick are just three of the materials that are part of the still only-proposed ban on C&D material landfill disposal in Massachusetts. Wood, metals, and OCC are also part of the proposal. The state probably would like to add gypsum and asphalt shingles to that list, but at the current time it realizes there are no real end markets for the products.

Currently, the state is examining comments received during the public comment period, deciding whether revisions are needed to the proposal. An educated guess would put the start date for the ban at 2005.

That isn't the only action on mixed C&D going on in New England. In July of 2004 the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) unexpectedly gave C&D recyclers and MSW landfill operators a 10-day notice that they could no longer use C&D fines as alternative daily cover (ADC) in MSW landfills. The DES said it had received complaints of hydrogen sulfide gas odors from neighbors of the state's largest landfill and had decided that the gypsum in the C&D fines used as ADC was the culprit.

Two of the largest C&D recyclers in the state reacted by deciding to work with the state to find a solution to the problem. LL&S in Salem worked with Green Seal Environmental to experimentally simulate landfill conditions in 30-cubic-yard containers. In each container several combinations of highly putrescent MSW was mixed with C&D fines, and the fines mixed with other materials such as coal ash, sand, soil, etc., in order to emulate landfill conditions. The goal was to find a combination that would generate little if any hydrogen sulfide gas. Early results were encouraging, and the DES is considering some alternatives that will allow the fines to be used again as ADC.

The need to keep the ADC market open for fines underscores the lack of other markets recyclers have for the material, a natural byproduct of the C&D recycling process. The other C&D processor in New Hampshire, ERRCO, Epping, N.H., is exploring other avenues for the material, such as a fill product or as berm material. Questions remain as to whether state agencies will accept those end uses. To help that decision along, the CMRA is gathering data on C&D fines composition determined by laboratory results from across the United States. The goal is to show state regulators what is actually in the fines in order to make informed decisions about what to allow. That study, performed by Green Seal Environmental, should be finished by January 2005.

Market development remains a chronic problem for C&D recyclers. As mentioned, New England has few market opportunities for shingles and gypsum, which is why Massachusetts is not including them in its proposed ban. Traditional markets for processed shingles--hot mix asphalt and temporary roads--are not always available. Even if a market for processed shingles exists, some states may ban post-consumer shingle processing because of a fear of contaminants.


Gypsum's problems are more entrenched. The best opportunities for reuse of recycled gypsum are with the wallboard manufacturers for use in new wallboard. Some are doing that on a limited scale, but wallboard companies are cautious about accepting the material because of possible contaminants.

But the contention is that because there is no major outlet for recycled gypsum, and because of the odor problems federal and state regulatory agencies say gypsum causes in landfills, it could be argued that gypsum wallboard is not an environmentally friendly product. This could, some day, have activists calling for a ban on the use of the material.

The CMRA has started the Web site to promote gypsum recycling.

Wood's best outlet remains boiler fuel, which is considered by some to be so low-income as to be almost no value. Recyclers reply, "Give us a better (and more profitable) end market and we will serve it." The limited markets for reuse in manufacturing processes (such as medium-density fiberboard) drive the wood to the boiler, where at least energy value is recovered rather than the wood going to a landfill.

In Germany it is against the law to send wood to a landfill. A law passed in 2003 requires the recycling and energy recovery of scrap wood. It covers all wood, from scrap timber products to demolition wood, and declares that if the wood cannot be recovered, it must be disposed of using thermal processes.

Setting aside the fact the United States does not have an infrastructure for such an action, one could just imagine which groups would lobby against such a measure if it was proposed in America.

Landfills are perhaps the next great horizon for C&D recyclers. In many parts of the country, materials that recyclers are now able to make something out of are buried there. In addition, getting a new landfill permit or more airspace is a difficult and iffy proposition. Taking out and selling the valuable resources in landfills brings in some revenue while opening space for future residuals. It also gets the landfill operator into the recycling business so he or she learns about what markets are available for whatever materials are going into the site currently. Some forward-thinking landfill operators are already working in this vein.

It will take ingenuity and hard work for C&D recyclers to continue to prosper. But they should receive the support of the public and government officials in their efforts, which provide jobs and pay taxes in an environmentally friendly industry.

The author is associate publisher of C&DR and executive director of the Construction Materials Recycling Association. He can be reached at
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:State of the Industry; Construction and demolition
Author:Turley, William
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Article Type:Industry Overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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