Why should you recycle Construction & Demolition (C&D) Materials?

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has implemented waste disposal bans on many of the materials generated during construction and demolition including: Asphalt Pavement, Brick and Concrete (ABC), Wood, Metal and Clean Gypsum Wallboard.

RecyclingWorks, using stakeholder input, has developed a set of Best Management Practices for managing C&D materials. Many businesses recycle these materials because it saves them money on waste disposal costs. Recycling is also good for the planet and your local community because it helps conserve valuable resources, reduces pollution from production of new materials and creates new jobs.

Building renovations and demolition represent a significant opportunity to separate materials for reuse. Mis-orders, slightly damaged goods, or left over materials can be salvaged through reuse.  There are several non-profit organizations in Massachusetts that take donations of reclaimed building materials. Learn more about deconstruction and donation and how to organize these projects.

The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program has become an important standard in building construction.  A main objective of LEED is to minimize waste generated in the construction process and it requires documentation about the materials generated at the job site and how they are recycled.

To help businesses comply with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) Waste Ban for construction, demolition, and other materials, RecyclingWorks developed the following sector-specific tip sheets, available in both English and Spanish. Tip sheets for additional business sectors will be posted below as they are available. If you are interested in having any of these materials translated into another language, please contact RecyclingWorks at (888) 254-5525 or info@recyclingworksma.com.

PDFWaste Ban Compliance Tips for Colleges & Universities [English] [Español]


Waste Ban Compliance Tips for Property Managers [English] [Español]

How do C&D materials get recycled?

There are many haulers and C&D processors who can help you recycle or reuse C&D materials in Massachusetts.  C&D recycling allows the reuse of those materials and also helps to reduce the cost of managing these materials.

Once in a C&D processing facility, the different materials are separated, managed and recycled according to their highest end-use and marketability. These facilities separate materials by type using a combination of hand and mechanical sorting.  Materials such as concrete can be separated and crushed for use as aggregate. Other materials, like cardboard, may be pulled off, baled and sent to cardboard recyclers.

On larger projects, it can be especially cost-effective to have dedicated containers for different material types like metal, cardboard, wood, or gypsum wallboard. This method is called source separation. By doing this, materials can often go directly to the recycling market, eliminating the step of the C&D processing facility and improving cost effectiveness. This often requires more space at the job site and proper training of construction crew but it can be worthwhile if you are generating large quantities of materials.  It can also be helpful in improving your LEED rating.

What happens after C&D materials are recycled?

  • Asphalt pavement and asphalt shingles are usually separated, crushed and used to mix new asphalt or used as a road base.
  • Once the processing is complete, recycled concrete can be used much like virgin concrete and can be recycled many times.
  • Processed wood can be chipped and used to manufacture particleboard, fuel at biomass plants, intermediate landfill cover, landscape mulch
  • Metals, both ferrous and non ferrous, are easily separated and readily recyclable into new metal products.
  • Clean gypsum wallboard with no paint, nails or wood, can be ground up and reprocessed into new wallboard or used as a landscaping additive similar to lime.

Ceiling Tile Recycling

Recycling ceiling tiles has a range of benefits. For example, recycling 100,000 square feet of ceiling panels saves 70,000 pounds of landfill waste; 35,000 gallons of potable water; 700,000 pounds of virgin materials; and 134,500 kilowatt hours of electricity. Armstrong World Industries is a designer and manufacturer of floors and ceilings that also operates a “closed loop recycling program” for ceiling tiles. Check out Armstrong’s website that explains the easy, 5-step process for how to recycle ceiling tiles from your construction/demolition project, and has a video that highlights all of the environmental benefits associated with ceiling tile recycling. In addition, read the MassDEP Case Study that highlights the renovation of Clarke Distribution Corporation in Milford, which involved recycling ceiling tiles through Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program.

Fluorescent Lightbulb & Thermostat Recycling

Mercury is a highly toxic metal and all mercury-containing devices should be handled properly. Mercury-containing devices include compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), fluorescent tubes, as well as certain lighting ballasts and thermostats. The Mercury Management Act prohibits the disposal of mercury in the trash or wastewater.

The US EPA fact sheet, Before you Tear it Down, Get the Mercury Out, offers best practices specifically for the pre-demolition removal of mercury-containing devices from residential buildings. If broken, mercury-containing items, such as CFLs, must be sealed in plastic bags and never disposed of down the drain or in the trash. The Thermostat Recycling Corporation offers free mercury-containing thermostat recycling, reporting, and compliance assistance. Please refer to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Mercury Information, and Keep Mercury from Rising for guidance on how to safely manage and dispose of mercury-containing products.

C&D Materials Case Studies

The Columns

Learn how Saloomey Construction diverted over 90% of construction and demolition materials from disposal at The Columns project in Northampton

PDFThe Columns Written Case Study: Learn more about how Saloomey Construction achieved a high C&D recycling rate through source separation of several materials.

Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse

Learn about capturing building materials for reuse and recycling from an Auburndale Builders project in Wayland, MA.

PDFDeconstruction and Building Materials Reuse Written Case Study: Learn more about using deconstruction to divert building materials from disposal.

Learn about recycling other materials

For more information on other commonly recycled materials visit these pages:

Additional Resources