Know The Difference (Other than the Obvious) Between A Permitted and Non-permitted Facility?
A disposal site will either be a permitted facility or it will NOT. There’s really no in-between and knowing the difference is critical when disposing and/or recycling construction or demolition related waste. A Permitted facility is one that has obtained ‘official’ permission from the jurisdictional authority from the territory that the facility operates. This usually will be the State environmental office that the facility resides in; however other relevant permits can be provided by the local authority as well. Permitting requirements vary from state to state and differ greatly from one waste type to another. For purposes here, we will talk only about construction and demolition (C&D), wood or other related waste disposal.
Is a permit required?
So now that you hopefully have a general understanding of what a permitted facility is, now let’s look at why this should be the first question you ask before choosing to use a facility for the disposal of any potential waste or recovered product. Keep in mind that just because it has been separated from the waste stream a product’s legal disposal may very well require it to go to a “permitted” facility. North Carolina for example regulates wood waste. Though it may be a truck load of pallets or a dumpster full of 2×4’s (unless you are delivering it to the habitat restore or a pallet recycler for reuse) it will have to go to a permitted facility. This can be a landfill, transfer facility or a wood waste grinding / recycling operation. Each waste type will usually fall into its own unique category with special requirements for collection, recycling and disposal. It should be noted that the disposal of some waste may not require a permit at all while others have minor restrictions and others such as mixed C&D requires strict permitting.
Note: Before you dispose of any waste, haul or plan to recycle or receive waste, learn the law! If you are not familiar with the state laws, federal facility regulations or local ordinances in your working area, hiring a reputable waste management company to guide you will prove invaluable. It is almost a must if you are planning to recycle your waste.
Can I Really Be Prosecuted?
As mentioned each state will have its own unique requirements for waste management and it is important to not break the law which could result in criminal prosecution, fines etc. You should never assume that the hauler is relieving you of the legal responsibility! For example – In North Carolina the law requires that the “generator” of the waste or the “financially responsible party” to be liable for proper disposal. This creates a flow-down enforcement policy which catches most by surprise. On your typical construction project, any liability of enforcement will typically be assessed against the owner of the property or project, then the contractor, then the hauler then the facility receiving the waste.
It is very important to understand the waste that you are handling and the legal requirements associated with any planned recycling and/or proper landfill disposal. Illegal facilities crop up and can exist for an indefinite time before they are closed by state enforcement. Don’t assume that just because your hauler says he/she has permission to dump or that he has been taking the waste to a particular dump site for a long time that it is a legitimate disposal site. North Carolina posts all of its permitted facilities on the state’s environmental website for easy access. Most if not all state environmental agencies should be able to provide you with the list of permitted facilities for your work area by waste type. Or simple ask your waste management company, hauler or the disposal site to provide proof of permitting for the planned disposal / recycling site.
Again note that each facility is unique in its operational permitting requirements. Not all facilities require permitting. Again in North Carolina, facilities such as card board recyclers, metal scrap yards or concrete waste processors do not require a state waste permitting. However, most local communities will have zoning requirements or business licenses. As an example of how complicated it can be…a company can sell the mulch processed by a wood waste recycler or can receive clean source processed chips, but it cannot take in clean wood such as 2×4’s or brush to grind to produce the mulch it sells unless it obtains a permit! The permitting will regulate the types of waste that can be received, how the waste is handled, where the waste originated from, any recycling that occurs or what happens to that recovered product, and ultimately how all that cannot or is not recycled is disposed.
Today’s topic is Construction & Demolition Waste recycling facilities. Waste recycling or recovery as it is sometimes called is simply the purposeful removal of certain waste with the intent of recovering the economic value remaining in the waste product. This is not a Webster definition. It is merely the factual basis of which most if not all C&D recovery facilities exist. Making money is the purpose and while most make the bulk of their revenue from the tip fees paid to dispose waste at the facility, the money made from selling the recovered product is very important to the success of the facility unless other government subsidies are sustaining its existence.
So now that we know why recovery facilities do what they do, let’s talk about how they work. First of all, most recovery facilities exist to remove as much waste as is economical from the waste stream. Research shows that about 95-98% of C&D waste is recyclable. However, some recoverable product will not fall into the “economical” category. For example: 5 gallon paint and drywall mud buckets are HDPE and in high demand…but only if they are clean! If the payment on the buckets compacted and baled is $80 per ton delivered and a bale is 1 ton and consists of 400 buckets. Can you wash them (don’t forget about the environmental requirements necessary to process the wash water!), compact them and delivery them for 20 cents each? – I will answer this for you – NO! So with this said, most C&D recovery facilities will limit their recovery efforts to metal, cardboard, inert [concrete, brick, soil & asphalt] and wood. The latter two and all other potential recovered items typically require further processing prior to sending to an end market. Wood will typically require grinding and inert will require crushing as a means to reduce the material and prepare it for a marketable product. Again, keep in mind the goal is to sell the recovered products!
Now let’s talk about a recovery facility’s makeup. Most facilities will have a front end just like a landfill which will include the check-in process with an attendant and scale. From there trucks will proceed to a dumping area called the “tip pad”. The waste is screened, then dumped and screened again for any objectionable or possible banned items. [Check your local facility’s requirements and acceptable items – they are all different.] The waste is then sorted, removing the cardboard, wood, metal and inert. At our facility we also recover drywall (sheetrock). The recovery process can be as simple as people hand picking the target items from the dumped pile of waste to the use of sophisticated equipment to remove the items by use of air, water, screens etc. Facilities with higher volumes will usually have a picking line which is a flat conveyor where the waste is loaded and slowly travels down the “table” by the conveyor belt. “Pickers” will grab the target items as they travel by. Each picker will focus on one or two items which are dropped into a chute. Most systems are elevated 8-12 feet which allows for bins to be placed under the chute to collect the recovered item. The recovered items are stockpiled for processing or sale. The material not recovered (spoils) is the non-recyclable waste that will be disposed at the landfill. Some recovery facilities will operate in conjunction with a landfill, but if not the waste is loaded into a container or open top semi trailer and transported to the landfill daily. The recovered products may be stockpiled, processed and marketed and can accumulate on site until timing is favorable for the profitable sale of the products.
There is some debate of which systems are better or more economical and a lot of variables will help make that determination. As a contractor, waste hauler or consumer looking to use the facility, outside of price, the most important factor is probably the facility’s recovery rate history. This is determined by a simple calculation of dividing the total tons of recovered product by the total tons the facility received. A good recovery facility should be recovering 50% of all waste received. A rarity is one that recovers 75% or more. This qualifies the facility to offer the 2 point credits that is desirable for Silver LEED certification.
Lastly, keep in mind that recovery facilities are specialized facilities that usually can recover a consistent percentage of waste. This is accomplished by well trained “pickers” who have keen eyes and awareness of what is recyclable and what is not and the use of equipment designed for the recovery of waste. Probably the most important element of success is the recovery system as a whole. A well designed and efficient system will recover a higher percentage of waste and charge a competitive tip fee. A recovery facility should maintain the required records to meet LEED certification requirement and state or other governmental audits. When thinking about how best to recover waste from your project, research has shown that C&D recycling facilities are typically the most economical diversion solution. As mentioned, most facilities with their specialized systems will be able to consistently recover a percentage of 50% or more.
The Forum to be held at Ft Bragg, NC January 12-14 will bring together representatives from 40 installations to discuss and learn sustainable concepts. I applaud Ft Bragg and its ability to host such an event which will bring new ideas to our community and will hopefully contribute to the longevity of Ft Bragg and to our economy. I have noticed that some of Ft Bragg’s environmental enthusiasts boast that Bragg leads the Army in sustainable practices and innovative ideas. I don’t doubt that it does a good job when you look at collective “sustainability” but I don’t agree that they are leading the way in the waste management portion of that collective effort. I have to ask the question: Where is private industry and its experts? Let’s look at some facts:
- Bragg has just started recycling C&D waste: A little less than 10 years ago, a demolition company from California was in the middle of a law suit with the Corp of Engineers and Ft Bragg. The suit stemmed from a contract requirement that instructed the contractor to “recycle to the maximum extent possible”. After all, the project was for the removal of 86 single family houses of which most were occupied by military families at the time the contract was awarded. Since the houses were in good shape, the contractor, following the specs devised a plan to relocate most if not all the houses off base, thus recycling the units in tact. This would have saved more than 25,000 cubic yards of non-hazardous waste (C&D) from going into the base’s landfill. Ft Bragg balked at the contractors plan, forced the contractor to demolish the units and dispose of the more than 1,000 loads of waste in the Bragg landfill. The contractor sued for breech of contract and was awarded damages including interest in excess of $1,000,000. Assuming Bragg learned a lot from the contractor and his perseverance in the legal process, they have come a long way since that award was made about five years ago!
- Bragg has been given some leeway with the Army’s Sustainable Management of Waste in Military Construction, Renovation and Demolition Activities: There are some key factors in the policy which was crafted at the highest level from the Pentagon in response to the US Dept of Interiors policy that required the recycling of construction waste. The Army bolstered the DOI’s policy by adding higher percentages of recycling and other critical points. The policy which went into effect in 2006 has eight program requirements of which one deals with the use of the Ft Bragg Landfill. The requirement stipulates (paraphrased for brevity): “An Army-owed landfill may be used by a contractor for waste generated under a contract, contingent on the lack of alternative disposal sites within a reasonable driving distance [50-100 miles], and the payment of a fee, which is equivalent to the tipping fee prevailing in the area or the full life-cycle cost of the disposal site whichever is less.” Bragg generally has not supported the use of local recycling facilities and has directed contractors in the recent past to dispose of all waste not separated for recycling on-site in the bases landfill. Bragg also has ignored the requirement to charge a tip fee for the use of the base’s landfill.
I assume the justification is that if they charge a fee, then the contractor will include that cost in his contract price which ultimately is paid by the taxpayers anyways – so why create the loop? Right? Well, there are two problems inherent in this argument:
A. Life-cycle cost or the cost of replacement is ignored. The pentagon has indicated that the Federal Government will not be permitting any more landfills. As Bragg’s land becomes scarcer, what once was a seemingly useless piece of property is property that could have been used for something other than a landfill. The other problem is that if the policy allows the continued use of the existing landfill until the landfills capacity is exacerbated, then it would seem logical that any and all [see policy excerpts above] steps would be implemented to prolong its use.
B. The use of a “free” disposal option thwarts the foundation of the effort to recycle, which is cost avoidance. It is this premise that the authors of the policy have required the base’s contractors to use local recycling facilities – or pay a fee for the use of the base’s landfill. Research has shown that most contractors will recycle if the cost is not considerably higher than not recycling. Free verses $40 per ton will perpetuate a cheaper to dispose mentality and drive a much lower percentage of waste recovery from a project site and fill up the bases existing landfill much quicker!
- Private industry seems to be missing from Bragg’s sustainable C&D waste management practices: There are times when government needs to lead the way for improvement and betterment of the whole. Any progress or direction of which private industry does not embrace in a free will fashion is usually a candidate to use the government’s money to promote the advancement. However, recycling of C&D waste is not one that falls into that category. Contrary to that argument, the Army’s policy stipulates that bases should rely on the experiences of commercial industry to advance their recycling programs. Private industry has been recovering recyclables from C&D waste for many years. Concrete has been crushed, wood ground and mixed waste separated for cost benefit for decades. Bragg does not seem willing or amicable to the advancements and advantages of using private industry to handle, separate and process its C&D waste. There are reputable, local HubZone firms capable of performing most of the very tasks that Bragg is using valuable tax dollars to fund.
I encourage the leaders of Bragg and the forty other installations from across the country to involve local industry. If the experts exist, then let them do the dirty work and spend our tax dollars on cutting-edge concepts. Government sometimes has to do the job, but it does not automatically mean that it can do the best job! Has a forum ever been held, inviting private industry to offer suggestions and to learn how it could assist the government in meeting its sustainability goals?
Better C&D Waste Management
To separate on site or to not separate on site: This has become a topic of debate and opinion. For discussion purposes I want to make sure everyone is up to speed on the difference between the two.
Source Separation: The method of separating waste at the source of generation into the various recovered material groups. For construction waste, this is simply dividing the waste flow into various “like” waste materials at the job site. Whether it’s creating various piles on the ground, placing it in bins or using multiple roll-off containers, if you are throwing all your clean wood into a separate pile – you are source separating your wood waste.
Mixed C&D Recycling Facility: A facility that specializes in the recovery of recyclable material from a mixed C&D waste stream. The waste from the project site is disposed in a container and then transported to the facility (not the landfill) where the waste is dumped on a concrete pad. Trained workers separate the load into various recovered materials.
One method verses the other does not mean that one is the good guy and one is bad. They can potentially accomplish the same thing; however, there are several key factors that determine the feasibility or economics of choice. The use of a recycling facility is normally the most convenient if one is available. With most other factors ignored, this method requires 1 can or central point of collection of the mixed waste. This is generally the same collection & storage method implemented if the debris were to be disposed at the landfill. A good recycling facility will maximize recovery by using specialized equipment, methods, facilities and skilled workers. A good mixed waste recycling facility should easily achieve 50-60% recovery while specialized facilities can achieve 75-90% recovery. While there are tip fees associated with the tonnage disposed at the facility, rates of recovery are proven and proper project record keeping can guarantee LEED credits for project waste recovery.
The Source Separation method requires more involvement on the contractor’s part. He/she must determine what waste can be separated and the best way to store / collect the waste, find markets or disposal facilities for the separated material and then, prior to and while implementing the plan, someone must train the subcontractors and project labor force how to follow the plan. He/she must establish a monitoring program to keep everyone on track and finally, develop a data collection system for determining if the efforts qualify for LEED credits towards waste recovery.
Our many years of experience show that source separation has many critical paths and will create many inherent points of potential failure. Therefore, it is important to evaluate some key points before making the final decision:
- Is there a permitted C&D waste recycling facility within 50 miles?
- Are the local subcontractors / labor force skilled / trained in waste recycling?
- Does the project have enough room for multiple containers necessary for source separation?
- What is the cost of multiple containers verses one container?
- What is the cost of on-site management of waste verses cost of recycling facility fees?
- If I source separate, where will I take the different recovered recyclables?
- Can I or do we have experienced waste managers to implement a source separation plan?
Answering these few questions can help guide your decision. Obviously projects have their own merits that may dictate one verses the other. But when faced with the choice, proper planning can make achieving LEED credits for waste recovery a breeze!
As the year winds down, I would like to remind everyone that next year is a good time to start recycling your C&D waste if you don’t already.
My topic today is C&D Waste in LEED planning. I am not an expert on LEED certification but well versed in waste calculations for points in the LEED system. It seems that almost everyone accepts that they can achieve a 50% goal of recycling on a construction project; however, the higher percentages of recovery required for more LEED points is a subject of doubt. I know that the higher percentages are obtainable, but I have dealt with C&D waste management for more than 15 years. I hope to point out some important factors to achieve these higher recovery percentages.
I will cover Source Separation verses Mixed Waste Recycling Facilities as my next topic but today let’s talk about waste planning as a LEED factor. Our research indicates that the timing of the waste management plan and its implementation could very well be the most critical part of the actual recycling program. Recycling, as it pertains to LEED points is a simple factor of recovering caculated minimum percentages of waste from the projects waste stream. It is understood that project waste generation and planned recyclables can be calculated for a project prior to the first shovel hitting the ground. I assume there are some contractors that would let the percentage just evolve; however, I think most prudent planners would make a determination before the project ever starts. What is the magic number, 50% or 75%? The answer lies in the confidence of your waste recovery planning. No matter what percentage is chosen, it is critical to have the plan in place long before the waste starts piling up. Since the percentages are calculated and compounded by waste flow, it is important to understand that if a recycling plan is failing at the beginning, its full life cycle will probably be doomed. This is merely a statistical statement…not a disrespect of your abilities.
With a plan on paper, it is equally important to have all the details in the plan locked down and in place when the first bit of work begins. After evaluating spreadsheets of tonnage generation and recovery scenarios, our research supports that a lagging recovery percentage at the beginning of a project will usually perpetuate a failing percentage of recovery at the end of the project. Compounding the problem is that most of your heavier waste components are generated in the beginning of the project, not the end! A simple example… A project is expected to generate 100 tons of waste with a 50% planned recovery, thus the targeted recovery is a minimum of 50 tons of waste. Assume that one quarter of the way through the project, it is discovered that the recovery rate to date is 5 tons not the required 13 tons necessary to meet the 50% planned recovery. A false sense of security will cause one to expect to make it up on the other 2/3’s of the project time and waste flow. Assuming all things equal, that requires you to recover 45 tons in the final 2/3 time frame. Your recovery percentage through the balance of the project is now 60%. Can you see how this compounds the difficulty in meeting the planned 50%. Now think about planning for 75%!
In addition to the above points, I suggest a plan that has real time evaluation methods. Know your target tonnages, percentages and recoverable material markets. And lastly, bring a well qualified waste management company on board at the beginning of the planning process. These steps should alleviate some if not all of the pitfalls associated with a failing waste recovery plan.
ICAN, a local construction waste management and recycling company is the recipient of a $21,750 grant from NC Division of Air Quality. The company used the program to assist with the purchase of a new excavator and to re-power an existing loader with a more efficient engine. The equipment is used to move recycled materials at its construction waste recycling facility located on Eastern Blvd. Last year the company recycled more than 7,000 tons of mixed construction waste at this facility. The recycling equipment consumed more than 11,000 gallons of diesel.
In October 2008, the Division of Air Quality was awarded a Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Grant by the US Environmental Protection Agency for $750,000. These funds established the NC Clean Construction Leading to Early Adoption of Diesel Emission Reductions (LEADER) Program. The purpose of the NC Clean Construction LEADER program is to help clean up North Carolina’s construction diesel engines through the funding of equipment replacements, engine re-powers or engine upgrades. Older diesel engines contribute significantly to air pollution in North Carolina.