No matter if you were engaged in a socially distanced conversation, perusing social media, watching TV or otherwise awake and breathing, the message was the same as the New Year approached: Thank God 2020 is coming to a close.

While 2021 promises to offer hope for regaining much-awaited normalcy in our day-to-day lives through the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, industry participants are less bullish on the prospect of an immediate bounce back in the building, demolition and C&D recycling sectors.

With this uncertainty in mind, Construction & Demolition Recycling polled some industry participants to get a feel on what to expect over the coming months.

Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America noted, “Homebuilders will be busy all year, whereas the outlook is mixed but largely negative for other contractors. There will be a few bright spots. Demand should be strong for distribution facilities, especially ‘last mile’ or ‘last hour’ structures near residential customers. Some of these will be repurposed from stores and other existing buildings, potentially generating more recycled material than new construction. ... But most categories of nonresidential construction are likely to shrink until well after other parts of the economy regain their footing. That upturn depends on rapid, widespread vaccination and restored public confidence.”

Bill Turley, executive director at the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association, expressed similar comments regarding the state of C&D recycling, stating, “2020 was of course a difficult year for C&D recyclers with the coronavirus causing the slowdown or even shutdown of construction sites throughout the country, which means recycling facilities got reduced infeed. But eventually, everything largely picked back up as far as incoming volumes, but that may be a temporary thing. Several recyclers have reported the return in incoming material volumes was because ongoing projects [that were suspended by COVID-related considerations] started back up again, which is a good thing. But in many—but not all—locales, it was noted that once those projects are completed, there aren’t a lot of new projects starting up.”

Jeff Lambert, executive director for the National Demolition Association, noted that nonresidential demo job losses were likely to become more commonplace as backlogs slip, but that “the NDA is hopeful that Congress will invest in infrastructure in the New Year.”

This hope for a renewed investment in infrastructure likely got a shot in the arm with democrats winning Georgia’s runoff elections on Jan 5, giving the party control of the Senate, and presumably making it easier for President-elect Biden to advance his previously announced infrastructure objectives.

While this may offer some hope for industry, it’s clear that getting the building, demo and recycling markets back on track is going to take some time.