Before In-N-Out Burger opened the doors of its 231st location last month in Woodland, Calif., the fast food chain was already making an eco-impact by diverting 99 percent of the waste accumulated during construction from landfills.
This feat earned recongition from Woodland’s Public Works Department, which claims that 58 tons of construction debris was recycled, and another 2,425 tons of soil was reused for other projects.
The project did end up landfilling 15 tons of material (more than 33,000 pounds), which shows the waste impact of construction projects since that represented about .06 percent of the project’s waste.
What’s in a Building?
According to the EPA, construction and demolition debris account for 40 percent of municipal solid waste in the U.S. These materials include recyclable material such as steel and wood, but also hazardous waste like adhesives, paints and solvents. This doesn’t even take into account waste generated by construction crews, such as blueprints and plastic water bottles.
While the waste accrued in a single construction project is typically larger for commercial spaces, the U.S. produced almost double the construction waste for residential projects in 2003, the last year for which data was released. There were 10 million tons of residential waste, an average of 4.39 pounds per square foot, compared with 5.1 million tons of non-residential waste, which averaged 4.34 pounds per square foot.
The EPA has set a target recycling rate of 50 percent for construction, renovation and demolition projects, with a challenge being the areas where construction debris recycling facilities are not available. In a program involving eight U.S. states, the recovery rate was 48 percent in 2003, up 23 percent from 1996.