In 2014, the Sacramento, California-based Recycling Certification Institute (RCI) began overseeing the Certification of Recycling Rates (CORR) Protocol. RCI developed the CORR Protocol to International Organization of Standardization (ISO)-level standards as a way to help construction and demolition (C&D) recyclers meet the industry’s growing need for reliable recycling and recovery rates verified through a third-party audit—the idea being that with a little oversight, the C&D recycling industry would gain more legitimacy through transparency.

Now, five years later, two dozen recycling lines across the country (and counting) have earned certification.

While the ability to verify rates is undoubtedly a major boon to the credibility of the industry, the potential drawbacks are apparent thanks to a playing field that isn’t completely level.

In “Understanding RCI certification for C&D recyclers” of this issue, RCI’s Executive Director Stephen Bantillo discusses how the ability for non-certified facilities to win LEED-related work based on self-reported numbers may be hurting those facilities that have been verified.

“Certified facilities have expressed frustration that the [U.S. Green Building Council] is still accepting the self-reported recycling rates of all facilities around them that haven’t been certified,” he says. “Many believe that the facilities might be making up these recycling rates or inflating their numbers.”

The answer, according to Bantillo, is for the USGBC to mandate that a facility’s recycling rates be verified prior to awarding points for specific LEED projects.

“If they’re focusing on performance, then their rating system [should be set up] to accept only clarified numbers. Otherwise, there’s the potential that as they begin to calculate the environmental benefits and greenhouse gas emission reductions of green building projects, they could be misreporting those numbers,” Bantillo says.

In an age when a growing number of local and state governments are pushing for green and zero-waste legislation to cut down on the proliferation of waste to landfill, the ability to have greater certainty related to C&D diversion seems to be something of interest not just for recyclers, but also for entire communities.

However, until legislators and those in charge of oversight make some type of certification mandatory, the question has to be asked as to whether those who get certified are doing the noble thing while potentially sacrificing their greater business interests. Despite this issue, Bantillo says that certification ultimately gives recyclers something that is hard to top—objectivity.

“It’s not just the recycling facilities, but the contractors and builders who can benefit when a recycler gets certified,” he says. “They like to have a certified facility in their area where they can get verified recovery rates for their projects because they want to know how they’re doing in terms of diversion, as well. … For the recyclers, this certification can set them apart from other facilities ... with whom they are competing. They want their customers to know that they’ve gone through the verification process and that their numbers are accurate.”

To read more, check out “Understanding RCI certification for C&D recyclers.”