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How to Recycle and Use Recycled Materials in Construction

August 3, 2022 - Ellie Poverly

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In 2018, construction and demolition (C&D) activities created about 600 million tons of waste in the United States. That’s a lot of waste! Fortunately, there are ways to recycle and use these materials instead of just throwing them away.

Below, we’ll discuss how construction and demolition creates waste and how to recycle these materials. We’ll also share some tips on finding and using recycled materials in construction projects.

What Kind of Waste Does Construction and Demolition Create?

C&D activities generate a variety of waste types, including:

  • Concrete: Construction waste made up of concrete, asphalt and bricks
  • Wood: Construction waste made up of wood, paper and cardboard
  • Asphalt: Construction waste made up of asphalt shingles and pavement
  • Plastics: Construction waste made up of plastic pipes, siding and packaging
  • Glass: Construction waste made up of windows, mirrors and light bulbs
  • Bricks: Construction waste made up of bricks, mortar and ceramic tiles
  • Metal: Construction waste made up of metal pipes, wiring and siding
  • Drywall: Construction waste made up of drywall panels

While some C&D waste can be reused or recycled, much of it ends up in landfills. This process creates numerous environmental implications, especially because nearly all of these materials take decades to break down. Additionally, the production of many construction materials requires unsustainable practices, including the use of fossil fuels.

As a result, it’s important for C&D companies to do what they can to properly dispose of their debris. When possible, they should also opt for using recycled materials in projects. This way, they can lessen their impact on the environment.

How to Recycle Construction and Demolition Materials

Fortunately, there are ways to recycle many construction and demolition materials. Some common methods for recycling C&D waste include:

  • Creating aggregate: One way to recycle construction waste is to create aggregate, which means crushing leftover rock materials to create gravel, pebbles and other similar items. This aggregate can be used in construction projects as an alternative to purchasing them new.
  • Using engineered wood products: C&D waste that contains wood can be recycled into engineered wood products like oriented strand board (OSB) and particle board. These products can be used in construction projects in place of traditional lumber materials.
  • Working with a C&D recycler: There are companies that specialize in recycling construction and demolition waste. Working with one of these companies is a great way to ensure your construction project is as green as possible.

Finding and Using Recycled Materials in Construction and Demolition

If you’re interested in using recycled materials in your construction project, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) Program is a helpful resource. The CPG contains a list of construction products that contain recycled materials and information on where to find them.

Pursuing Greener Options in Construction and Demolition

C&D activities generate a lot of waste. However, there are ways to recycle and use these materials instead of disposing of them in ways that impact the environment. Those in C&D can take several steps to ensure their work is more sustainable.

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.


Ellie Poverly

Ellie Poverly is a science writer specializing in astronomy and environmental science and is the Associate Editor of Revolutionized. Ellie's love of science stems from reading Richard Dawkins books and her favorite science magazine as a child, where she fell in love with the experiments included in each edition

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