How to Dispose of Building Materials

If you’ve been in the construction industry for a while, it should be no surprise to you that as much as 30% of the building materials ordered for a job typically end up as waste. The most recent EPA statistics quantifying construction waste show that in 2018, construction and demolition accounted for more than twice as much solid waste as all the nation’s municipalities combined—about 600 million tons. Out of those 600 million tons of C&D waste, nearly one quarter ended up in landfills, which is regrettably (and avoidably!) high. That’s why we have put together a guide on how to dispose of building materials, as experts in repurposed materials, you can reach out to us for more help.

Got Stuff? We buy surplus inventory and hard to recycle items. Call us before you send it to the landfill!

Not All Construction Waste Comes from Building Materials

Not all construction waste can be classified as building materials, which consists primarily of unused drywall, bricks, metal, wood, insulation, tiles, screws and nails, electrical wire, plumbing supplies, and so on. Most construction waste is the result of demolition, and some must be considered hazardous waste.

Any waste that contains asbestos or has been treated with or contains toxic substances—solvents, paints, adhesives, roofing tar, treated wood, for example—must be treated as toxic waste.

These are important distinctions when the goal is to cut down on the amount of construction waste entering the waste stream and going into landfills.

There is one other important distinction to bear in mind. To dispose of something doesn’t necessarily mean throwing it away. The word “dispose” is also defined as “to deal with conclusively” or “to transfer to the control of another” or “to give or sell to someone else.” With this in mind, here is how to dispose of building materials appropriately.

How To Dispose of Building Materials: Planning is Paramount

For the health of the planet, the goal of all builders (do-it-yourselfers as well as professionals) should be to minimize waste in the first place and to channel as much of it as possible into reuse and recycling. Achieving this goal requires careful waste management planning as part of project planning.

Historically, project planning has paid scant attention to waste management, but the easiest way to manage waste is to avoid creating it in the first place.

Order Less

Project planners typically overestimate building materials needs, but not without reason. Their concerns about not having materials on hand when needed are legitimate. Sitting around waiting for materials to arrive is not productive. Supply chain disruptions occur for any number of reasons, so it’s common to order the full quantity of a given material up front, plus enough extra to provide a cushion against shortages resulting from damage during transit and handling or mistakes and rework. But with 30% of materials ordered ending up as waste, that cushion clearly could be smaller.

Plan for Reuse

Accepting that some portion of materials ordered won’t be needed, project planning should consider how the unused excess can be reused, perhaps for another project or by someone else. Why throw something away only to turn around and buy the same thing again for the next job? If you have no future need for it, dispose of it in a way that will enable someone who does. Donate it to a good cause, or sell it for surplus and recover some of what you paid for it.

Plan for Recycling

When a project involves demolition, especially demolition of smaller structures, it’s often possible to salvage materials that can be recycled for another purpose. But according to the EPA, more than 75% of construction waste from wood, drywall, asphalt shingles, bricks, and clay tiles—all recyclable—ends up in landfills instead of being recycled.

Sorting through piles of construction debris after the wrecking ball has done its job may be more than many builders are willing to tackle, but there are companies that specialize in doing just that. They know the laws governing recycling and waste disposal and can separate out hazardous waste and transport recyclable demolition waste to an appropriate facility. Builders can even make some money by recycling construction and demolition waste.

When recycling demolition waste is part of the project plan from the outset, it may make sense to deconstruct rather than demolish. Reach out to RepurposedMATERIALS during your recycling plan as we often have ingenious uses for used materials you may not have thought of.

Keep It Out of the Solid Waste Stream

The construction industry has made significant progress in reducing the amount of building materials and other C&D waste being disposed of in landfills. Building Information Management (BIM) systems maintain records of everything that goes into a structure, which makes ordering the right quantity and planning for reuse and recycling much easier and more accurate than it was in the past.

There is one more thing builders can do to help keep building materials out of the solid waste stream: REBUY.

The EPA advises builders that doing their part to keep building materials out of the nation’s landfills includes buying used or surplus materials and building materials with recycled content for use in new construction. Rebuying whenever possible reduces costs without adversely affecting quality. And it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do. You can browse our many used materials on our website for your construction projects.

Contact Repurposed Materials today to find out how we can help you find a new home for unwanted materials.