More than 90 per cent of the 230,000 tons of construction waste ReEnergy accepted in 2019 came from out-of-state, according to its annual report. After processing, ReEnergy said it sent 93 per cent of the imported trash to the Juniper Ridge landfill, which while owned by the state is operated by a private company, New England Waste Service of Maine, a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems. Casella collects a “tipping fee” from ReEnergy for taking its waste. Fees for construction and demolition debris vary, but range from US$33 to US$95 per ton, according to the state’s environmental agency.
The Dunn Landfill in Rensselaer, N.Y., pictured above, occupies 80 acres in this 3.3-square-mile city. New York City, 150 miles south, is the source of much of the construction debris dumped in the landfill, which sits less than a mile from the local public school complex and this baseball field where children play. | David Ellis of Rensselaer Environmental Coalition
“It’s a huge waste stream that has big potential for recyclability but needs both the infrastructure and the legislation to make that happen,” said Justin Green, executive director of Big Reuse, a nonprofit organization that works on repurposing building materials. As far back as 2003, city officials were looking for ways to curb construction waste that ended up in landfills. “It is the right thing to do, for the environmental benefits of resource conservation, energy savings and pollution prevention,” the Department of Design and Construction, which oversees municipal projects, urged in a report 17 years ago.
MinnPost file photo by Bill Kelley
Burying construction debris can dredge up naturally-occurring chemicals in the soil like arsenic and manganese that leach into groundwater after precipitation.
In order to catch up with demolition, Adams said he wants people who don’t deconstruct buildings to pay what he calls the “social costs” of carbon emissions to cities, which is the price of mitigating climate change. Reuse and recycle of construction waste cuts down on emissions in part because of the energy it takes to create new building materials. Adams pegged that carbon cost at roughly $9,000 for a typical house. He said cities should use that money to offer grants to homeowners who can’t pay for decon
“We’ve received calls from desperate construction managers who want to comply with waste regulations and certification requirements, but honestly have no idea where to start,” Natarajan said. “High turnover in the industry exacerbates this issue as institutional knowledge is lost with each regrettable turnover.”
Children play in front of Sumner Elementary School in North Lawndale. Across the street, the construction dump looms. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Sumner Elementary School archive)
“I just thought, ‘Well, somebody’s just parking their trucks in there,’” said Woodson, “’til a guy said, ‘Ms. Woodson, come down, look at this. Do you know that somebody’s over there dumping in that lot?’” And they were. Load after load of broken concrete, rebar, bricks and stones
“The individuals and companies arrested in connection with this alleged illegal dumping scheme put the health of Suffolk County residents at risk out of pure greed,” Sini said. “These defendants are alleged to have knowingly dumped solid waste and potentially hazardous materials into our residents’ backyards and parks just to line their pockets.”
Entrance to the Dunn C&D Landfill Thursday Jan. 11, 2018 in Rensselaer, NY. (John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union)
“It is evident that a number of environmental factors including noise, dust and others were not clearly documented or fully considered in the findings statement when submitted for the permit,” according to the Sierra Club. “We look forward to working with citizens of Rensselaer in this review to ensure we understand the breadth of the issues involved.”
Currently, certain collectors of construction and demolition debris are able to circumvent the requirement to recycle 75 percent by weight of recovered materials by processing mostly concrete and other heavy debris – leaving solid waste to accumulate on site.
According to the study, “reduce, reuse and recycle” policies are necessary to control the amount of construction waste, but insufficient resources, lack of standardization, slim profit margins, policy apathy and lack of education on the issues are keeping that from happening. The Asia Pacific region is expected to generate a majority of the construction waste in the year to come, followed by North America. Europe, according to the report, has developed the best construction waste management technologies.
Muchea Land Fill foreman Troy Owen is concerned recycled material, which will potentially go into buildings, may contain asbestos. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper
“(Demolition rubble) can’t be 100 per cent asbestos free,” Mr Scott said. “If you demolish a building it doesn’t matter how careful you are, you are going to get asbestos.” “We have machines with throughput volumes of 5000 tonnes an hour. When you look at the volumes we play with, that’s a lot of asbestos we can put out,” he added.