fWhen a building project includes demolition, there can’t help but be a lot of waste. In fact, construction waste accounts for about one-third of all refuse created in the United States. Industry experts estimate that the average amount of trash generated at a new building site is about six pounds of refuse per square foot. That is A LOT of waste! Fortunately, the vast majority of it can be recycled or put to another use. At Sunshine Recycling, we are 100 percent committed to doing just that.
Green building (environmentally responsible construction) and recycling have always been top priorities for our company. We are LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which means we are able to work on green building projects that require tracking and reporting of all materials that are recycled. For these jobs, we can provide percentages of all the materials collected, hauled and recycled. On average, we are able to recycle 98 percent of all the debris and trash we collect.
What items can be recycled?
Sometimes people are surprised just how many different types of items can be recycled and reused. But the fact is, whether you work on a construction site, or in an office or a retail business, there are plenty of materials that can be recycled and made into other products. At the very least, these materials can be taken to an energy plant and processed to create electricity or thermal energy to power our city.
There’s a long list of items and materials that can be recycled. Construction debris that can be recycled include asphalt shingles, bricks, concrete, gypsum wallboard (sheet rock), non-asbestos insulation, wall coverings, tar paper, scrap steel, gravel, plastics, glass windows, wood scraps, plywood, particle board, carpet, insulation, roofing materials, plumbing fixtures, electric wiring, and soil, as well as landscape vegetation like trees, bark and scrub brush.
Items commonly found in offices and retail businesses that can be recycled include paper products, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, telephone books, cardboard boxes, heavyweight file folders, books, empty paper coffee cups, and aluminum cans.
How are materials recycled?
But how exactly do we carry out our recycling? We offer what’s known as “single stream” recycling to our construction and demolition clients who are leasing roll-off dumpsters at their job sites. We also provide this same method of recycling hauling to our commercial clients.
Single stream recycling is a system in which all the construction debris (like asphalt, metals, wood, glass, etc.), along with more everyday items (such as paper products, cardboard, plastics, glass, tin cans, aluminum products, etc.) are all mixed together in one collection receptacle during pickup. After the materials are collected, they are brought to a material recovery processing facility. There, the materials are loaded onto conveyor belts. What’s recyclable is then sorted out using a combination of hand sorters and automated separators (sensors, magnets, etc.).
Once the recyclable materials have been sorted out and collected, they can be reused to create similar types of products. For example, asphalt and concrete can be broken down and used again to create new asphalt or concrete. Recycled wood can be used to create products like wood flooring, paneling, doors, windows, garden mulch, wood chips, fertilizer, biomass fuel, and even pet bedding and cat litter. Cardboard and paper can be recycled into other cardboard or paper products including printed publications, packaging and to-go boxes. Recycled plastic bottles can be turned into new containers for cleaning products, beverages and other consumer goods.
Of course, the ultimate question for some individuals and companies may still be “Why even bother to recycle?” The fact is, it’s important for the environment, as well as your business.
In terms of the environment, the pluses of recycling are huge. Government officials have estimated that if all of the asphalt and concrete generated annually for roads and construction in the United States were recycled, that would be an energy savings equal of about 1 billion gallons of gasoline each year (or, to put it another way, the removal of more than 1 million cars from our roads). The reason for the energy savings would be due to the lower consumption of the natural resources needed to make asphalt and concrete. Less petroleum would need be extracted and refined, and not nearly as many crushed stones would have to be mined.
Of course, the other major way recycling helps the environment is that it keeps refuse out of already packed landfills. Landfill waste is a serious problem, in big part due to the slow decomposition rate of the materials that are discarded. Construction and demolition materials can take many thousands of years to break down and decompose, and during this time, the area where the landfill is located is virtually rendered useless. Another huge issue is groundwater contamination, which can be a result of poorly managed landfills. Recycling can help avoid these kind of environmental concerns.
Besides the environmental pluses, recycling can create some financial benefits for your business. The fact is, not too long ago, recycling was almost an “optional” practice in the construction and demolition industries. But today, most of your clients and customers are going to expect a recycling program from you and even demand it. Moreover, the U.S. government offers some significant financial incentives to construction companies to recycle waste materials. A company that isn’t involved in recycling is going to miss out on these government incentives, and may even lose some business from potential customers who believe recycling is of key importance. These are all good reasons to recycle…and to support Sunshine Recycling, as we work towards preserving the environment.
Contact us today
We encourage our clients and customers to recycle and do their part to conserve the environment. For our construction and commercial clients that are interested, we can provide separate, additional compactors to collect only recyclable materials. This option is good for businesses that use and throw away a lot of one particular type of material, such as concrete or cardboard. These compactors will be processed and hauled separately to ensure the recyclables are not mixed in with other waste.
If you’d like to learn more about how to integrate recycling into your company or request a recycling compactor, or if you’d like to talk to us about our single stream recycling program, give our office a call. We’re happy to talk about recycling and get the word out…any chance we get.