So what happens to old buildings after they are demolished?
I was surprised to learn that nearly 40-to-60% of our landfill is old buildings. To “Build Green” means to avoid the landfill and recycle. So off to the recycling center I go. For several trips, the dump truck is loaded up with the debris from one jobsite, mostly material from the master bath and bedroom and guest bedroom:
Lath, plaster, sheet rock, old yellowed 2x4s full of nails, plywood subfloor, fiberglass shower stall, sink, cabinets, carpet, foam pad, electric wires, outlets, junction boxes, knob and tube, conduits, plastic pipes, cast iron, copper, plastic fire sensors, and all kinds of other stuff–rubble, dust, sawdust, insulation–much of it cut up and in plastic bags.
At the recycling center, Craig, the superintendent, wants me to empty out all of the black plastic bags–so that their contents can be verified.
Really? A whole truckload!?
I’m surprised and a bit miffed, as you can guess. I ask him why, explaining that I’d had to carry all that material down three turns of a staircase of a home that was currently being occupied, put it in the back of a pickup, and then throw it all into another truck at a different site. The bags were crucial to a clean, efficient process. (Actually, another crew member forewarned me that he’d had to empty the bags once at the recycling center because they had recently found human body parts in some other bags, from of a local homicide, and now the recycling center did its own preemptive forensics. But I doubted this whole explination.)
A pile of wood from old dwellings…
Craig, the superintendent, told me it was okay–this time. I didn’t have to empty each bag. He said, normally, he wanted the bags emptied because some guys say that there’s construction debris in the plastic bags, when really it’s regular garbage, and the center can’t recycle it.
I’m pleased that what we bring to the recycling center is truly and verifiably recycled.
Craig, the superintendent, also says he’ll give me a tour of his center. He’s visibly proud of his operation and says so. The best time to show up is 9 in the morning. (It’s near quitting time when we talk.)
Great, I tell him I’ll be back soon.
Construction Debris’ Initial Sorting Out
*note: above the backhoe operator’s shoulder, the stairs leading to the conveyer belt where all of this gets sorted out by hand.
So I back the truck up, raise the bed, and empty the payload of old house. Everything I deliver will later be sorted BY HAND into its individual elements on a raised conveyer belt. Cool, I can’t wait for my tour–and for a greater picture of where old buildings go to get recycled.