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New Online Resource To Help Contractors Recycle and Reuse Materials

September 9, 2009
AGC's new online recycling toolkit will help contractors recycle construction and demolition (C&D) debris and reuse industrial materials in new construction projects.  AGC worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Industrial Resources Council (IRC) to make this tool available. The recycling toolkit provides information on starting a recycling program, links to web pages to find C&D materials reuse or recycling facilities, examples of construction waste management plans and how to find industrial materials for use in construction projects.  Interactive graphics demonstrate how recycled industrial materials could be used in the new construction of buildings and roads.  Toolkit users can learn from their peers through case studies, and members are welcome to submit case studies and suggest other resources. According to EPA estimates, wastes from new construction, renovation, and demolition projects generate about 25 percent of the total U.S. solid waste volume.  EPA estimates that 170 million tons of building-related C&D materials were generated in the U.S. in 2003.  Of that quantity, as much as 48 percent was diverted from landfills.  EPA has not published estimates of waste generation and recycling on highway projects; however, informal estimates have indicated that highway contractors recycle and reuse large amounts of asphalt and concrete associated with their projects.  On highway and road projects, these materials often are processed and reused on the very same job site.  In practice, only asphalt, steel, metals and concrete have been recycled or reused in significant volumes in the U.S., because there are established secondary markets for these used materials.  Green building rating systems and initiatives promote recycling and reuse by allotting points towards a higher score or level of certification that projects can achieve by recycling and incorporating recycled materials. The recycling of construction and demolition debris is one way that contractors can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A significant amount of energy is expended (and associated GHGs are released) during the harvesting, manufacturing and transportation of materials used in construction. Emissions are expended during the process of recycling and reusing materials; however when these materials are reused or recycled, the GHG emissions that would have occurred during virgin material harvesting, processing and manufacturing are avoided. EPA estimates that for every ton of asphalt recycled from construction an associated 0.03 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are avoided. Since approximately 139 million tons/year of asphalt are recycled in the U.S., the result is that 4.2 million tons of CO2 emissions are avoided.  About 140 million tons per year of concrete are recycled, which equals 1.4 million ton of CO2 emissions avoided, and 40 million tons of steel are recycled each year, which amounts to 71.6 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided.  For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at tomainom@agc.org or (703) 837-5415.
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