June 28, 2022
Architecture 2030 has stated that a third of existing US buildings will be demolished by 2050—waste that, in large part, goes straight to landfills. In Minnesota, a staggering 90 percent of construction and demolition (C&D) debris is generated by demolition activity related to commercial and residential redevelopment.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hired MSW Consultants through a competitive procurement process to determine where C&D materials come from and where they are brought to for disposal, to work towards changing current practices for C&D disposal and diversion. Our team conducted a statewide study, sampling the composition of the state’s C&D waste and estimating the percentages of major material groups and categories present using our proprietary app that incorporates material densities with volumes observed in the load. We then looked at current recycling and diversion opportunities and identified options for future opportunities.
Separation Prior to Disposal is Key
During the study, our team characterized nearly 1,700 tons of C&D waste, classifying 375 loads into 42 subcategories that rolled up into eight primary material groups. We found the three largest categories—concrete, roofing shingles, and dirt/sand/rock/gravel—represent 54 percent of C&D waste when combined and have a high potential for reuse or recycling if separated at the job site prior to collection.
Recommendations resulting from the study included:
Making a Change
The MPCA supports and encourages programs that will result in C&D debris being re-used or recycled rather than buried in landfills. Visit https://www.pca.state.mn.us/waste/sustainable-building-and-materials to learn more about quarterly Built Environment meetings, All for Reuse Map & Matrix website, Building Material/Waste Management Plan template, the monthly newsletter, and more. (MN residency is not required to subscribe or learn from Minnesota!)
Calling All States
The magnitude of C&D debris in the overall waste streams across the country is astonishing. States (or counties or cities…) could see great environmental planning benefit by conducting C&D characterization studies and implementing more sustainable building material management practices or requirements.
Sr. Project Manager
Built Environment Sustainability Administrator
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency