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Go green and recycle construction waste

Anasua Mitra, Feb 1 2018, 21:10 IST

The environment is a popular topic of discussion today, and the concept of recycling construction materials has become more important than ever before. Currently, most of the construction waste is transported by open trucks and dispersed in the nearby areas.

We often see construction debris dumped along the roadside without any proper provision for disposal.

For sustainable development in the construction industry, there is this massive need to reduce the diminution of natural resources, reduce disposal of construction and demolition (C&D) waste into landfills, and encourage recycling and reuse of C&D waste.

Why recycle?

Recycling C&D materials can bring in significant benefits for our environment. Million tons of asphalt pavements and concrete are generated annually. If recycled, it would save a lot of energy. In addition to saving energy, recycling can also keep all the debris out of the landfills. Poorly managed landfills face a number of operational hitches and groundwater contamination.Such challenges can become quite expensive in the future, but recycling construction waste can help circumvent them.

In addition, recycling offers financial benefits for construction business owners. There are many recyclers who charge very little to accept construction waste, which can be reprocessed, particularly if it is separated from other materials. Furthermore, recycling can decrease your material transportation and dumping costs.

Recycling is essentially transporting debris and other waste to the recycling facility; these facilities can use it for different purposes. The waste is either processed to form the same material or is re-purposed.

So, what can be recycled? Well, the list of construction waste which can be recycled is ever-changing. Technological advancements are creating opportunities to recycle more and more C&D materials instead of sending them to landfills. Here are few options for recycling and reusing construction materials instead of discarding them:

Concrete: Demolitions, road paving and other projects containing concrete produce thousands of tons of waste every year. Concrete can be broken down and recycled as the base course for building footpaths and driveways, and also be recycled into markets which use crushed stone.

Asphalt: Every year, thousands of cubic yards of asphalt pavement and shingles are disposed of. Waste asphalt can be crushed and recycled into new asphalt for paved roads. Recycling asphalt pavement generates large energy savings as a result of the energy-intensive process of producing asphalt binder from oil.

Gypsum: Gypsum recyclers remove any contaminants like screws and nails and separate the paper from gypsum. After that, it can be grounded into powder or turned into pellets, which can be sold to manufacturers who use gypsum for different applications.

Wood: Annually, a considerable amount of waste is generated from wood framing and other wood products. Clean, unprocessed wood can be used as timber or grounded and used to produce engineered board, mulch and boiler fuel.

Metals: Metallic waste is engendered by cut/fall-offs, which remain after materials are trimmed to fit particular areas. Metals can be melted down and converted into new metal products. They can also be sold for scrap. Common recyclable metals comprise copper, steel, and aluminium.

How do you incorporate it in your plan?

Recycling isn't just about putting your plastic containers or aluminium cans in the blue bin. What about the building materials in your home? Are they contributing to the environment negatively? There are several benefits for you and the construction companies if you incorporate construction material recycling into the building plan. Here are a few:

Reduces greenhouse gas emissions: Recycling construction waste helps in reducing the production of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants by decreasing the need to extract raw materials and transport new materials to long distances.

Saves landfill space: Recycling lessens the need for new landfills and their related costs.
Saves energy: By eliminating the need to extract and manufacture new raw materials, a lot of energy can be saved. This also reduces the environmental impact.

Saves money: By reducing transportation cost, disposal costs, and the cost of new construction materials, a lot of money can be saved.

Why build green?

The construction industry is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases and demolition waste. How do you think we pay for this loss? The answer is: with sustainable architecture. This kind of architecture strives to minimise the destructive impact that buildings are having on the environment today.

Green buildings use less energy, natural resources and produce less waste and greenhouse gases. Such buildings are healthy for the people living or working inside as compared to the regular structures present in the country. Building green is just not about building efficiently, but it's about creating buildings which optimise the use of local and recycled materials, local ecology, and most importantly, built to reduce power, material and water requirements.

So, what are you waiting for? Let's make earth a better place! One way or another, recycling is the way of the future.

(The author is marketing manager, Wienerberger India)

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