8th May 2021
As many of us know, construction waste pertains to the unwanted outputs, materials, and items generated from a demolition process, rebuilding project, or due to a construction process. It is otherwise known as the Construction and Demolition waste (C&D waste) in the construction waste management sector.
Regardless of where the construction wastes come from, some materials can still be utilized for other valuable activities, aside from the typical reuse and recycle process. That only means that when we talk about waste disposal, it’s not all about putting all these wastes into a landfill and leaving them there for eternity. Of course, that could be an option.
But there is more. Take note of this. When other approaches to waste disposal are not feasible or practical, landfill is merely the last choice. But that entails the proponents to meet the country's regulatory permissions and safety standards or its respective region.
In simpler terms, the disposal of construction waste is the method of moving the debris from one area or location to another. At that time, the environmental or sustainable considerations and recommendations are critical factors to consider.
In this article, we’ll take you to the straightforward and sophisticated approaches to construction waste disposal to understand the best possible option better.
Disposal Approaches according to the Kind of Construction Waste.
The construction industry's Construction and Demolition waste generate massive debris, either degradable or non-degradable and either hazardous or non-hazardous. However, keep in mind that the prime classification for consideration is if it's hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
To give you a context of why it matters to dispose of construction waste properly, let us cite some examples. Let’s say a construction company builds high-rise buildings near a watershed. Before that, the authorities informed them of the environmental guidelines, including proper disposal of construction wastes. Sure.
The company readily agreed to the terms so it can start building right away. However, some company employees decided to recklessly discard both solid and liquid wastes on the watershed during the process, causing the pollution of the springs that provide water to the local neighborhood. Eventually, the company was fined and ended up ten times the amount it was supposed to save from its reckless action.
That is just one of the many scenarios of how costly it is when a company does not properly adhere to construction waste disposal guidelines.
How to Safely and Properly Dispose of Non-Hazardous Construction Waste?
Here are some of the proven and most eco-friendly ways of disposing of non-hazardous construction wastes. These practices are recommended by government agencies, including private institutions promoting sustainability and environmental preservation. But of course, you can always customize depending on your company’s existing resources and the level of skills your employees have.
1. Donate unwanted construction items/outputs
Many construction waste or materials that may seem useless to us can help some locals or needy people. Sometimes, we don’t see the value of a discarded item. Still, discarded materials can be an ideal raw material or add-on for people who can generate products from almost anything.
Let’s say you have old appliances or decorations that have piled on your basement. Consider donating these to homes that may want them. Just post them online, and you’ll be surprised at how much people are willing to have them, even at a specific cost.
2. Recycle or Reuse Construction Wastes
Reducing the amount or volume of construction waste materials is one of the best ways to prevent extensive disposal. Suppose that is not feasible for the company based on its current resources and expertise. In that case, it is imperative to imbue the utmost patience and conduct a detailed and thorough review of the possibilities of recycling and reusing the construction debris.
For example, fusing scrap metals and broken tools can generate a single decoration that one can then use to design garden ornaments and other purposes. Of course, there are many other discarded materials that you can convert into brilliant artworks and other masterpieces that some companies would be willing to buy.
But if your company lacks the time and workforce to repurpose the discarded materials, consider selling the scrap to enterprises that perform recycling procedures. There're many of them, and you can even pick one that purchases disposals at the highest price.
Here are some more examples of waste recycling to give you an idea of what else can be done:
Recycling rubble and concrete into concrete and aggregate producers
Engineered wood derived from recycled woods
New metal forms from discarded metals
3. Try the Landfilling Option
As shared in the previous paragraphs, landfilling options can only be done by complying with the set recommendations, guidelines, and standards of a particular country or region. Take note that a C&D waste landfill does not accept chemical waste, industrial waste, or hazardous waste. Among the primary construction waste materials which landfills accept are site clearance waste, construction or renovation waste, and road work construction waste.
To better understand and be aware of the legal specifications of the C&D landfill waste and Industrial Waste, consider checking out the 40 CFR Part 257 under the United States Environmental Protection Act (EPA). Many of the items mentioned in this guideline are critical and can significantly guide the company in coming up with cost-effective and more customized solutions.
How to Safely Dispose of Hazardous Construction Waste?
Depending on the regulations and technical recommendations of a country or region, the construction materials considered hazardous waste must be appropriately disposed of or treated. This is a critical responsibility of every company to avoid health problems that may affect its employees, the local population, and the surrounding natural environment.
Among the common examples of hazardous construction wastes are adhesives, leftover paints and varnish, drums, resins, and other containers that contain the said materials. Other dangerous wastes are asbestos-containing materials, lead-based paint, utility poles, treated wood, and mercury products. There are many more, and sometimes many emitted or discarded to the environment without documentation. All these can lead to complicated health issues that affect humans and wildlife, and crops.
Here are some of the recommended methods of disposing of common hazardous construction waste:
1. Disposal of Mercury-Containing C&D Waste
Among the materials from the construction industry which contain the highly-toxic mercury are smoke detectors, silent wall switches, old paint, conveyor systems, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes, emergency lighting systems, neon lamps, thermometers, mercury vapor lamps, exit signs, thermostat probes, elevator control panels, old paint, coal conveyor systems, and many others.
Despite these materials' toxicity, many companies or individuals discard them carelessly, thinking that they won’t impact both humans and the environment. Some are aware but still choose the most straightforward option of disposing of them anywhere to minimize possible costs.
But all that have long-term implications and are illegal in most countries. So, what should you do? Here are some of them:
Materials containing mercury should be isolated and moved to a consolidation site or mercury recycler.
Removing the mercury from the discarded materials is a big NO-NO.
Ensure proper disposal by constantly labeling and storing mercury-containing devices.
To avoid the release of mercury, never crush fluorescent lamps.
Again, hazardous waste such as mercury-producing materials is critical to consider and must be done by highly-trained employees.
2. Disposing of lead-based construction materials
Among the materials listed under red hazardous wastes are lead-based paints and their debris. Make sure to follow the given guidelines and procedures when disposing of them:
Collect and put in a bag the chips, dust, and dirt of the lead-based paint.
Before storing in tight containers, consider separating all the lead-based paint containing building materials.
Seek technical support from a local solid waste agency to discuss how to safely and adequately discard lead-based paint debris.
3. Disposing of Asbestos Construction Waste
Since its discovery is an essential component of the construction industry, asbestos has been widely used to resist and insulate a structure or a building. It is used in cement products, shingles, resilient floor covering, and roofs.
To ensure that even the slightest residue won’t spill and cause health problems, it’s best to package asbestos waste in leak-tight containers adequately. Make sure that the material is properly wrapped and disposed of in a licensed disposal area. Although some asbestos categories don’t require regulation, one kind entails so. Ensure you know which regulation that is and comply instead of strategizing to skip such a safety net.
Along with other demolition waste, non-regulated asbestos can be disposed of in the available landfills or other designated sites.
Regardless of the kind of hazardous construction material, a particular region's environmental agency needs to guide and survey the company’s disposal procedure properly. Likewise, the company should state the volume of hazardous waste generated and the volume to dispose of to the respective agencies or government personnel. The hazardous waste should be supervised throughout the packing/wrapping, transportation, treatment, and disposal.
Continuous monitoring from the start is critical to ensure that the companies comply with the area’s guidelines and recommendations.