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Planning for Construction Waste Reduction

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on this page:
Waste Prevention Strategies

Purchase Salvaged Materials, Donate and Recycle Job Site Materials
Waste Reduction Planning
Sample Specifications for Subcontractor Agreements
Hauler Options
Deconstruction/ New Construction/ Remodeling
Tracking the Costs and Diversion Rates of your Project

C&D Resources


Each time you throw away your project's waste you are paying twice for materials:




•First to buy them
•And again to throw out what you don’t use.

Planning for waste reduction, even before a project starts, is the best way to save money and insure materials can be used most efficiently. The intent of this site is to help contractors evaluate all options for preventing and reducing their project wastes.


Waste Prevention Strategies

The easiest way to reduce waste management costs is to prevent waste from being generated in the first place. Architects and contractors can prevent waste during all phases of a project, including the design, construction, deconstruction or renovation phases as well as when buying materials for the project.
Here are a few tips:
• Use standard dimensions in the building design.
• Use less framing waste including techniques such as increased spacing of joists and studs and in-line framing.
• Use green building materials, such as products with recycled content.
• Consider used building materials. Most used building materials can be installed provided they do not act as structural components or otherwise compromise safety. Materials purchased at salvage yards cost 10 to 50 percent of the cost of new materials.

Tips from the North American Home Builders Association Research Center

Purchase Salvaged Materials, Donate and Recycle Job Site Materials

Consider purchasing salvaged materials to be used in your construction projects and donating usable materials leftover from your project.

Resource VT

Building Materials Stores

Burlington, Morrisville, Barre


Deconstruction Works

coop that provides deconstruction and soft-strip for renovations (RRP certified), tear-downs, and commercial interiors



If you are looking to recycle materials from a job site:

Myers C&D Recycling Facility

Colchester, VT

Spec Sheet


Check with your local solid waste management entity for local resources.


Waste Reduction Planning

Planning for waste reduction is crucial to its success. A written, well thought out, job-specific plan, will reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of, and can save money.

Here are some keys to cost-effective planning:
• Keep your Plan simple.
• Involve essential personnel in developing your Plan.
• Target materials with high potential for reuse and recycling. (Use these ballpark figures from Peaks to Prairies to get a sense of how much construction waste may be generated on your jobs.)
• Specify the methods to separate store and collect materials. Make it as convenient as disposal and protect materials from the elements or other damage.
Download the ANR C&D Waste Reduction Plan to develop your Plan. The main thing is to have it in writing, so expectations are clear.
SAMPLE PLAN: Pizzagalli Construction Company

Putting your plan into motion
No matter what type of project you are planning; new construction, remodeling or deconstruction, certain planning considerations will always apply. First check with your local solid waste district about requirements and assistance programs.

1. Identify the types of waste and estimate the amounts of waste your project will generate.

2. Check out local salvage and recycling markets for each waste material your project will generate, determine how to reuse the material on site, or plan to give away discarded materials.

3. Determine the sorting and handling methods for each material and include in your Plan.

4. Determine the locations for sorting reusable and recyclable wastes and identify them clearly.

5. Establish a defined area for the operations of each trade. For example, store your off-cuts from wood cutting in one area so they can be sorted by dimension for future reuse.

6. Maximize the reuse of materials back into the job, by construction crews, salvage businesses or used building materials stores. You can also list your available surplus scrap for free on the Vermont Business Materials Exchange (VBMeX)

7. Determine who will manage the program. Select a manager who has an interest in salvage and recycling. This person will be responsible for tracking waste reused and recycled, making sure staff and contractors don't put any trash in the collection bins, insuring the bins are emptied as needed, and keeping staff updated on progress and problems with the program.

8. Educate crews and subcontractors about the Plan and post it in visible locations - such as at recycling sites and in construction project offices. Ensure that they understand your Plan and will agree to comply with it. On large projects or projects you are unfamiliar with the subcontractors, you can require compliance with the Plan in your contract.

9. Incorporate education about the Plan into the agendas of regularly scheduled meetings such as project safety meetings.

10. Include everyone in the process. Encourage suggestions on more efficient methods or on adding materials that can be salvaged or recycled.

11. Offer incentives for employee commitment to your Plan such as free donuts or pizza!

12. Include requirements for waste prevention, reuse and recycling in all bid documents and subcontracts

Sample Specifications for Subcontractor Agreements

In addition to a general Waste Reduction Plan, it is important for large projects to specify its waste management goals in subcontractor agreements. This assures that the expectations and procedures are communicated clearly to everyone. The following is a sample specification in a subcontractor agreement:

"The subcontractor will make a good faith effort to reduce the amount of waste generated on the job-site and recycle material as per the contractor's Waste Reduction Plan. The subcontractor will follow the designated handling procedures for each type of waste generated on-site and provide documentation to verify material reuse, recycling, and disposal as indicated in the Waste Reduction Plan."

Reprinted from the King County Washington, Construction Recycling Program

Estimating the amount of recyclable waste for construction projects: conversion figures
Mixed Waste
350 lbs/cu yd
0.175 tons/cu yd
5.7 cu yds/ton
300 lbs/cu yd
0.15 tons/cu yd
6.7 cu yds/ton
100 lbs/cu yd
0.05 tons/cu yd
20 cu yds/ton
500 lbs/cu yd
0.25 tons/cu yd
4 cu yds/ton
1400 lbs/cu yd
0.7 tons/cu yd
1.4 cu yds/ton


Conversion Factors taken from WasteSpec, (Model Specifications for Construction Waste Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling)
Appendix A Information for Bidders: Preparing Estimates on Recycling
(Source: Resource Efficient Building (1994), Metro Solid Waste Department (Portland OR).

Hauler options for your waste management program

Hauling Service -- Ask your hauler what recycling options they provide and the fee they charge for each option. For example, a hauler may accept recyclable materials that are commingled at the same fee as disposal, but they may charge a lower fee for source-separated recyclable materials. While labor costs for separating recycled materials may be high at the onset of a project, this will decrease over time as crews become familiar with waste reduction practices.
While haulers may provide salvage and recycling alternatives if requested, they may not suggest them, so ask!
Self Haul -- The builder handlers all phases of waste management, often the case on a smaller remodeling job. The costs depend on labor, vehicle costs and the tipping fees charged.

Compare your bids with and without reuse and recycling to evaluate the economics of reusing and recycling each material generated during your project.

Reducing contamination is the key to successful recycling. Insure that your idea of a "clean" load is the same as your recyclers.

Reducing waste on new construction, remodeling or deconstruction projects:

New Construction Projects

Recycling is easiest on new construction projects. Large quantities of discarded materials, such as lumber, can be kept separate from disposable wastes. Recycling even one material may divert the majority of your waste. Recyclable materials will change during the life of the project. Wood and steel may appear first as the structural work is done, but corrugated cardboard won't show up in large quantities until the end of the project when fixtures are installed.

Remodeling Projects

Evaluate the salvage and recycling opportunities for your remodeling project based on the quantities of scrap materials that will be produced and the time necessary to separate the materials. You may be able to make money, get a tax deduction, or at a minimum, save on disposal fees on a project by carefully removing building components and fixtures for salvage.

Deconstruction Projects

1. Contact Vermont salvage companies and used building materials stores to tell them about the project.

2. Walk through the building with experienced salvagers to determine what has value for resale or reuse.

3. Remove salvageable items as early in the project as possible. Allow time for this on the front end of the schedule.

4. Look for salvage opportunities as the project progresses. For example carpet removal may reveal hardwood flooring that is salvageable.

5. Allow workers to reuse scraps or list your available surplus scrap for free on the Vermont Business Materials Exchange

6. Require specifications for reuse in the bid documents. Specifications could include a requirement to "salvage reusable materials for resale, for storage for use on future projects or return reusable items (e.g., pallets or unused products) to the material suppliers".

7. Compare estimates for your demolition bids to your deconstruction bids. You may also want to consider partial salvage, such as salvaging the more valuable fixtures and materials and demolishing the remainder.

Tracking Program Costs and Diversion Rates



In order to accurately assess the potential for saving on future projects, it's important to track the salvage, recycling and disposal costs.

You will need to determine if your extra efforts into the waste reduction plan paid off with cost savings.




• Were there materials that were too time-consuming to salvage and or recycle and not worth the additional labor?
• Or were there heavy, costly-to-dispose of items that were cost effective to recycle and salvage?

Use the following tools to track and asses the costs and benefits of your Plan:

Construction Site Waste Reduction Plan

An Act 250 document created by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Waste Management and Prevention Division to be used to plan and track waste reduction strategies.

EPA's Waste Reduction Model (WARM)

The United States Environmental Protection Agency created WARM to help solid waste planners and organizations track and voluntarily report greenhouse gas emissions reductions and energy savings from several different waste management practices

Conversion Figures for Salvage Materials




VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138   Fax: 802-xxx-xxxx


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