With increased job activity comes increased volumes of C&D materials to process. Higher landfill costs and a greater emphasis on LEED projects in recent years have helped increase the amount of material contractors are recycling in some parts of the country.
According to our survey, 78 percent of companies say that they have seen landfill costs increase in the last 12 months, as opposed to 16 percent who said it stayed the same. None of our respondents said that landfill costs have decreased over the last 12 months.
Instead of paying these landfill costs, contractors have tried to find solutions to divert material to avoid escalating tipping fees.
“Recycling is good business. At our company, we laugh and say, ‘Oh, we were green 25 years ago because we didn't want to pay all the tipping fees in the landfill,’ so we would recycle as much as we possibly could. Being green was chasing the money. It was environmentally responsible, too,” Knightly said. “So, I think it's going that same way today. Your landfill costs are not going to go down. They’re just going to keep increasing, and it becomes a competitive edge to be able to say, ‘I don't have to pay to get rid of this material, I'll [get on my phone and start calling people to take my material], and even if they don't pay me for it, they'll take it and make something with it.’”
These increased costs coincide with more developers throughout the U.S. pushing for LEED standards to be woven into the demolition projects they contract out. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said that they’ve noticed an increase in jobs pushing for greener standards over the last three years, while 24 percent said the work has been roughly the same and 13 percent have seen less of an emphasis on LEED principles over that time.
“The one thing that I see is the difference between millennials and maybe some people in the older generations,” Graham said. “It is very important to millennials that we are sustainable and that we think about the environment. In 10 years, millennials are going to be the majority of the workforce. So we have to embrace the fact that although we might not think that it's feasible right now to pursue some of these standards, we have to recognize this shift. I think that there are going to be regulations propagated across the nation that are going to take and make us recycle, but everything the [U.S. Green Building Council] pushed out in terms of LEED standards is now being embraced in many communities as the building code because it's smart. But it doesn’t just make sense from an ecological point of view, it's economics.”
So, just how much are demo contractors recycling?
According to survey respondents reflecting on a typical job over the past 12 months, 14 percent said they recycled between 80 to 100 percent of material, 24 percent said between 60 and 79 percent was recycled on the typical job, 14 percent said between 40 and 59 percent of materials were recycled, 25 percent said between 20 and 39 percent of materials were recycled, 19 percent said they recycled between 1 and 19 percent of material and 2 percent said they didn’t recycle anything on a typical project.