The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released figures showing that the U.S. increased its output of debris from construction and demolition debris by 25 percent from 1996 to 2003, while also recovering 48 percent of this waste.
The data is viewed as an estimate because only eight states release both their disposal and recovery data for construction materials. The recovery rate was just 25 percent in 1996, meaning although the U.S. is producing more of this waste, there are increased efforts to reuse and recycle these materials.
These figures are strictly based on building construction, which doesn’t take into account roads or bridges. The Construction Materials Recycling Association estimates the total construction and demolition debris to be closer to 350 million tons.
While construction project rates may have slipped recently due to the economy, buildings account for 40 percent of the materials used and 30 percent of total waste, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Most of these materials are recyclable, including steel, brick and wood.
In addition to recycling construction materials, many are available made of recycled content. You can find insulation made from blue jeans, carpet and carpet padding made from old carpet and plastic lumber made from water bottles and grocery bags.
The EPA is discussing the possiblity of providing an annual update for how much construction and demolition debris is generated. Currently, 27 states provide disposal data, and 11 states offer information on how much is recovered.