Construction, Demolition Debris Fact Sheet: Calculating Effectiveness Of Waste Management

Development of a waste management plan is essential in establishing your commitment to waste reduction on the job. The purpose of a waste management plan is to: predict the quantities and types of waste that will be generated during a construction, renovation or demolition project; identify the final destination of that waste; and estimate waste management costs.

In preparing an effective plan consider including waste diversion goals and objectives, exploration of recycling and reuse alternatives, and identification of locally available recycling and reuse outlets.

  • The first step in creating a plan is to identify a waste diversion goal for your project. For example: "50 percent of all project wastes will be reused or recycled." Try to keep the goal realistic, but don't underestimate potential resources.
  • A critical second step in development of a plan will be to predict the project's waste generation. Break your project down into phases and make your best prediction of the types and quantities of wastes that will be generated. Remember, these are estimates and can be revised as necessary.
  • The next step will be to devise handling procedures for all project wastes. Make sure you have the proper containers and adequate space to implement your plan. Some haulers and recyclers may have special requirements or restrictions on the condition and types of materials they will accept.
  • The final step in outlining your plan will be identification of a destination for each material that is generated on your project. Focus on reuse and recycling before considering disposal options.

Jobsite waste diversion goals can be accomplished in two ways: the general contractor can take responsibility for all project waste; or responsibility can be divided so that each subcontractor manages waste their own waste. In either case, the designated parties should have a written waste management plan, update it as necessary, and execute its implementation.

If the general contractor takes responsibility for waste management, either in part or total, then waste management activities should be included in the contractor's budget. When the general contractor shares responsibility for waste management with subcontractors, their cooperation is required in order to keep a complete audit of waste leaving the site.

Economics of the Waste Management Plan

When preparing a waste management plan, you will need to determine: tipping and/or disposal fees at the various destinations that will receive your waste; recycling service options; whether you will provide your own containers for materials or rent them; and whether you will self-haul materials or contract with a hauler. Disposal fees will have a significant influence on recycling economics. Local recycling facilities also charge a tipping fee for self-hauled debris; these vary, but are generally competitive or lower than landfill tipping fees.

Depending on available space and the amount and variety of materials generated, you will need to designate an area for materials collection and/or separation. Temporary bins can be built from scrap wood and then taken down and recycled along with their contents. If you decide to self-haul materials, make certain to account for transportation costs including vehicle ownership, operation and labor costs.

Local recyclers often rent storage containers and contract for hauling services. If you go this route, remember to budget monthly fees for container rental and hauling. This can be difficult to predict if construction schedules are extended for any significant period of time.

Labor Costs

It takes about two and one half hours to handle one ton of materials on site, and separating wastes for recycling may require additional time. Actions can be taken to offset this expense. Adapting efficient traffic patterns on the jobsite will reduce time spent managing wastes. Take into consideration that there is a learning curve. Once new procedures become familiar, the extra time spent will be minimized. It also is possible that labor hours will actually decrease with a well-planned jobsite recycling program.

Additional information about construction and demolition debris can be found at

Tips provided by EPA.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

Featured Webinar