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Disposal Discipline

Contractors are upgrading their waste management programs to meet impending regulations and the demands of the green building movement

November 01, 2003 |

When it comes to the disposal of construction demolition and waste materials, contractors are cleaning up their act, and with good reason: at least one state is about to tighten up its construction waste regulations, Federal agencies will undoubtedly start moving in that direction, and the growing sustainability movement is adding to the pressure to dispose of waste properly.

Massachusetts contractors have the most immediate need to act. The Bay State is expected to become the first in the U.S. to issue a statewide ban on the disposal of demolition and construction waste in landfills.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is drafting regulations covering disposal of these types of waste for commercial projects. The proposed regulations call for their enforcement by landfill operators, waste transfer station managers, and waste processors. It is expected that any additional costs will be passed along to contractors. Enforcement could begin by the fall of 2004.

The regulations will ban asphalt, brick, concrete, wood, and metal from landfills; other materials are expected to be added in the future, according to Vance Freymann, director of project development with Consigli Construction Co., Milford, Mass. Corrugated cardboard has already been banned, but the restriction has not been widely enforced.

Consigli volunteered to work with the DEP to help the agency formulate the forthcoming regulations, and in the process has geared up for them by implementing its own waste management program.

The effort began in late 2001 with the designation of projects as waste management study sites. Targeted projects represented both new construction and reconstruction, as well as a variety of building types and contracting methods, including negotiated and lump-sum formats.


The $7.5 million gut rehabilitation of the Cambridge (Mass.) City Hall was one of the pilot projects in Consigli's program.

Pilot projects include a $20 million new high school, a $3 million addition and renovation of a historic fire station, a $7.5 million gut renovation of a city hall, the renovation of a church basement, and the addition and renovation of a 60,000-sq.-ft. warehouse.

Consigli set an initial goal of diverting 50% of its waste from landfills by this year, but they've already reached 71% company-wide, according to Freymann. The waste management program is not having a significant cost impact, says Freymann, who quickly adds that "we're not ready to say it doesn't cost anything."

Consigli's program provides tangible financial benefits, says controller John Tessicini. For example, the contractor used to mix construction and demolition waste in the same dumpster. Haulers in the Boston area charge a lump sum, typically $650-700, for such loads, without itemizing how much is for hauling and how much represents the tipping fee that is paid to the landfill operator.

Consigli is now separating materials — asphalt, concrete, wood, gypsum board, and metals (which may be further separated) — at the project site. As a result, the company was able to negotiate a standard haul rate of $137 per load, plus a tipping fee that varies according to the material. A mixed load costs Consigli about $85 per ton. For concrete the cost is $10-20 per ton. There is no charge for metals; in fact, there can even be a rebate. The tipping fee for cardboard varies according to its market price.

"We're really enthusiastic about the program," Freymann says. "Hopefully, our experience will show others that, with planning and forethought, they also can do this."

If Massachusetts contractors continue to commingle materials in on-site dumpsters after the regulations take effect, Freymann believes they will be confronted with two options. A salvage processor will be required to separate the materials, undoubtedly passing on the added cost. Alternatively, the waste might be shipped to a state with less stringent landfill regulations. Freymann doubts this will happen, however, because he anticipates that adjacent states in the Northeast will adopt regulations similar to those being developed in Massachusetts.

"We're hoping to demonstrate that if you go into [the forthcoming regulations] with a good plan, they won't have an adverse cost impact," he says.

Waste management tips

Comprehensive waste management has also been developed by James G. Davis Construction Corp., Rockville, Md., whose sustainability director, Kimberly Pexton, offers several suggestions for implementing such a plan:

  • Know what can be easily recycled. Metals and cardboard are a given. Drywall, acoustical ceiling tile, and carpet are more difficult to keep out of landfills. But programs are available to accomplish that.

  • Architectural and contractor firms should have at least one staff member who is familiar with the basics of recycling and the waste services area firms have to offer. Architects should seek out local contractors with the best reputation for managing waste disposal.

"You have to keep in touch with the market to effectively implement a waste management plan," Pexton says. "Be aware of what different waste haulers can do. Try to align yourself with firms that are not just hauling your waste to the dump. They should have some environmental sensitivities as well."

  • Stay ahead of the regulatory bodies. With Federal agencies being mandated to have environmental management systems in place by 2005, says Pexton, "it's just a matter of time until they require that of the people with whom they do business."

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Conservation measure Cost premium Payback period (years)
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Insulated glazing $22,950 5.9
CO2 monitoring $3,300 5.2
Motion sensors $3,000 3.4
Harmonic transformer for electrical supply $3,600 4.3
Waterless urinals, low-flow faucets and showers $3,000 3.2
Bicycle racks $3,225 N.A.

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