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Construction Recycling

The warm weather of summer lends itself to all sorts of construction projects in Canada that would be difficult to do in the snowy winters. With an increase in construction projects in the summertime, there comes an inevitable need for construction and demolition waste solutions, like recycling.

The City of Calgary has a vision to lead the city to a zero-waste future. Their goal is to divert 70% of waste away from landfills, including residential, business, construction, and demolition waste by 2025. The plan includes reducing the construction and demolition sector's waste by 40% during this time by encouraging recycling.

What Counts As Construction Waste?

You might be wondering, what counts as construction waste? According to the Government of Alberta's Waste Facts, construction, renovation, and demolition waste include materials such as:

  • Concrete
  • Brick
  • Painted & Treated Wood
  • Drywall
  • Metal (Like Steel & Aluminum)
  • Cardboard
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Wiring
  • Asphalt Tiles
  • Paint

According to Waste Facts, it does not include:

  • Clean Sand
  • Gravel

Which Materials Can Be Recycled & How?

What The Recycling Process Looks Like

As with any aspect of recycling when it comes to construction waste, some materials can be recycled and some that can't. It's important to know the difference. Certain construction materials can be broken down and re-used. Others can be donated to local charities.

The Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta ReStore takes items like cabinets, doors, drywall, fasteners and hardware, flooring, paint, plumbing, tile, and windows. These materials are often donated by the community and repurchased by homeowners or designers at a reduced price. If you are doing a home renovation and have any of these products, consider donating them for re-use before going to a recycling centre.

Here is a guide on what you can do with different materials:

Concrete

Concrete is widely recyclable. It is broken up into small pieces by industrial crushing equipment. These pieces can be used as a substitute for river rock in landscaping mulch, a component in new asphalt paving, or streambank erosion.

Brick

Traditionally, brick was made of clay. However, now it is commonly made from additional materials like shale and concrete. Brick can be recycled similarly to concrete and used as an aggregate for construction projects.

Bricks are also great for use in DIY projects such as garden paths, planters, or birdbaths. Ask your neighbours if they have any brick they want to get rid of and try out one of the DIY projects for your home.

Painted & Treated Wood

Unfortunately, wood that has been "finished," which includes paint, treatments, or varnish, are not great contenders to be recycled. They also should never be burnt in a backyard fire as the chemicals they release can contaminate the air. If you have treated wood, try re-using it in a DIY project, or donating it to charity.

Untreated wood can be recycled. Recycled untreated lumber is used in many ways, like a mulch component, particleboard, or also chipboard.

Ironically, particleboard and chipboard are not recyclable because of the toxic chemicals in the glue used to bond the boards together.

Recycling

Drywall

Drywall contains a naturally occurring substance called gypsum made up of water and calcium sulphate. Recycled gypsum is desirable due to properties such as being fire resistant and good at balancing the pH levels of acidic soil.

The gypsum can be extracted from old drywall and re-used in other projects. For example, gypsum can make paper resistant to fire. Manufacturers also use it for compost and fertilizer.

It's good that drywall is a great candidate for recycling. If left on the ground in a yard or landfill, the calcium sulphate can leech into the soil and water, causing potential environmental and health issues.

Demolishing Drywall

Two things to keep in mind when demolishing drywall:

  1. Drywall used to be made with asbestos, which is harmful when inhaled. If the building you are renovating is older, you need to take extra precautions for your safety. If there is asbestos in your drywall, it can't be recycled. You will have to get the materials professionally removed.
  2. Older walls may be covered in toxic lead-based paints that can cause serious health issues. Similar to asbestos, this drywall cannot be recycled and must be professionally removed.

Metal

Metal from construction waste can be highly recyclable. Metals like steel can be recycled into new steel products again and again without losing its physical properties. According to the director of recycling for the Steel Recycling Institute, David Keeling, 94% of steel is recycled from building demolitions.

If you think of the aluminum cans, you recycle in your residential waste, the same goes for aluminum on buildings. It also can be recycled from buildings using the same methods.

Cardboard

Dry and clean cardboard is also recyclable. It can be recycled into new packaging over and over again without losing its strength.

Cardboard that is wet, soiled, or waxed cannot be recycled. Even when it comes to residential waste, pizza boxes, for example, are not recyclable material due to the grease left behind.

Windows & Doors

Old windows and doors consist of a wide variety of materials. Unless broken down, they can be difficult to recycle at a recycling centre. Good thing windows and doors make for great upcycling projects. Upcycling is the fancier term for re-using or re-purposing materials to create something new.

Pinterest is full of hundreds of ideas on ways you can upcycle old doors and windows. If you're replacing the ones in your home, check out some of the ideas before adding them to the trash bin. Alternatively, you can see if your neighbours would like them for a project of their own.

Wiring

Electrical wiring can contain materials like copper, aluminum, and also iron, all of which are recyclable as scrap metals. Copper wire can be quite valuable, so if you have any left behind from a construction project, you should consider selling it for money.

Often, the wires are covered in coatings like plastic, but you should leave the wire stripping to professionals to avoid injury.

Asphalt Tiles

Asphalt roof tiles are recycled at most recycling facilities. However, call your local recycling centre ahead to see what their policies are on separating shingles from other materials. One widespread use for recycled asphalt is as an aggregate in the pavement.

Paint

Alberta has a well-established paint recycling program. According to the Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA), 24.9 million litres of paint and 5.3 million spray paint cans were recycled using the program since 2008.

Because of the harmful chemicals paint can contain, it's good that Alberta can recycle so much of it. Latex-based paint can create new latex paint. Oil-based paints can also be used as a fuel source. Paint cans can additionally be recycled.

Construction Recycling

Finding A Recycling Depot

For residential waste, use ARMA's recycling depot search tool to find your closest participating recycling centre. As for construction waste recycling, check out Green Calgary's Recycler Directory to see which recyclers take construction and demolition waste.

An important step to make recycling construction waste easier is to create sorting habits early on in a renovation or demolition project. Sort the materials from the beginning and then see what you will be able to take for recycling, upcycling or anything you want to keep for DIY projects.

Recycling construction waste can be an overwhelming process. Being conscious about what can be recycled and how is an excellent step towards environmental responsibility.

At C&C Waste Management, we offer bin rental and waste disposal solutions in Calgary. Call us at 403-818-7371 to book a bin. Once the bin is full, we will haul everything away and dispose of it correctly for you.

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