On nearly every job site we work on, there ends up being a large amount of material that we need to export from that location. Whether that’s concrete, metal, wood, or other materials, we need to find somewhere for our construction and demolition debris to go once we remove it from the job site. As much as we can, we try to find a new home for these materials through recycling. It’s just the right thing to do for the environment, and it’s also usually a smart financial decision as well.
Legally speaking, you might be surprised by how few requirements there are for recycling and reusing construction materials. In Chicago, the city mandates a 55% waste diversion rate, which is a pretty low bar. To be honest, meeting that threshold is so easy that the mandate might as well not even exist. However, most of our clients will have their own project-specific requirements, which are enforced by the owners. That rate usually starts around 75%, and it can be as high as 90%, paired with a portion of materials that have to be reused on-site.
In a major market like Chicago, it’s typically not too difficult to achieve a high diversion rate, due to the multiple partners we have available to assist us. For example, we partner with recycling firms that will take co-mingled C&D loads back to their sorting facilities. They’ll actually dump and sort those materials based on the raw product at their facility, which is usually far more cost-effective and efficient than trying to manage that process ourselves on the job site.
For materials like ceiling tiles and carpet tiles, we’ll sometimes make a deal with manufacturers of those products — we’ll sell thousands of square feet of ceiling tiles back to the company that originally made them, and they’ll reuse them instead of actually recycling them into a new product. In my mind, that’s one step better than sorting and recycling these materials, so we’re willing to do that even if it’s a net-zero that won’t make us any additional money.
By weight on any given project, we recycle far more concrete than any other material. When it comes to money though, metal is easily the most lucrative recycling market. Even with the low rates we’re currently seeing for scrap metal, it still always makes sense to separate and recycle all metal materials from every job site.
Finally, if we find anything on a job site that we think is architecturally significant or just plain cool, we have a warehouse we can store it in. Remember at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when they store the Holy Grail in that vast warehouse full of crates? It’s like our own little version of that! We’ll either reuse those materials ourselves, or give them away for people to use as architectural elements, furniture, or decorations. We just do this because we like to — there’s no money in it for us.
At MILBURN, we like to be as transparent as possible with every aspect of our processes. That’s why we display our diversion rates on every one of the project descriptions on our website — just head over to our “Projects” page to see exactly how much material was diverted from the landfill on each of our jobs.Back to all Blogs & News