Impending regulations in Massachusetts will mark a major change in the handling of construction and demolition (C&D) waste.  A ban will be enforced on July 1, 2006, that will prevent landfill deposits of asphalt, brick, cardboard, concrete, wood and metal coming from commercial construction sites.  These regulations will directly address one of the major sources of landfill waste in Massachusetts, and are expected to be a model for other states.

Consigli Construction Co., Inc., a Massachusetts-based construction manager and general contractor, has been involved in a voluntary pilot study of C&D source separation and recycling since 2001.  The company has provided data on waste reduction results for five projects that were published as case studies for other builders to follow once the regulations are in place.  To date, Consigli has found little adverse impact as a result of its waste reduction efforts.  In  most circumstances, waste reduction can be achieved at marginal additional cost, given proper advance planning.  Consigli has implemented a company-wide source separation program, encompassing all of its projects, and has remained competitive against contractors not currently required to recycle.

The C&D Problem: Nationally and in Massachusetts

The impact of C&D debris on the environment is staggering.  More than 135 million tons of debris from construction sites is brought to U.S. landfills every year, making it the single largest source in the waste stream.

Figures developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are helpful to building owners, designers and contractors in understanding the magnitude of C&D waste.  In commercial construction, a typical new building generates an average of 3.9 pounds of waste per square foot of building area.  To put this in perspective, a new building of 50,000 square feet-a typical college residence hall or mid-size suburban office building-will produce 195,000 pounds, or almost 100 tons of waste.

Change the activity to demolition, and the figures increase dramatically.  In this case, commercial buildings yield an average of 155 pounds per square foot of building area.  Turn the same 50,000 square foot building into a demolition project and the result will be almost 4,000 tons of waste.

Pending Massachusetts Regulations

With landfills nearing capacity and heightened environmental concerns, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has drafted regulations on C&D waste that will take effect in 2006.  While other county and municipal governments have imposed C&D bans, the Massachusetts regulations will constitute the country's first statewide initiative on C&D handling.  The regulations will initially ban asphalt, brick, concrete, wood and metal from landfills.  An existing ban on corrugated cardboard will be enforced in conjunction with the newly banned materials.  It is anticipated that other materials will be added to the ban once the regulations are in place.  The stated goal of the DEP program is an 88 percent diversion of C&D from landfills by the year 2010.

It's important to note that the ban is on landfills, not contractors or building owners.  Waste haulers will be periodically inspected to ensure that they do not deposit any loads that contain more than 20 percent of the banned materials.

The Consigli Waste Reduction Program

Working with the Massachusetts DEP, Consigli entered into a voluntary pilot study to help determine the realities and possibilities of construction waste recycling.  Consigli implemented a company-wide source separation and recycling program, ranging from renovations in congested urban locations to new construction on greenfield sites.  The six materials targeted in the C&D regulations were regularly source-separated for later recycling. Ceiling tiles, new scrap gypsum, carpet and other materials have also been included in the program on some projects.

Consigli began the pilot program in the fall of 2001.  Initially three projects were targeted for case studies, with findings to be published by the DEP; this group later increased to five.  The projects were chosen to give situational analyses of a variety of circumstances.  Variable conditions include: new construction versus renovation; urban, suburban and rural sites; public versus private procurement; building and material types; and lump-sum versus negotiated contracts.

Consigli also supplied data to the Civil Engineering Department at Northeastern University in Boston, for use in developing a simulation model to predict construction site waste streams.  The model will help builders to determine approximate quantities by type and weight, based on variables such as building type, material type, new construction versus renovation, building area, etc.

Once the initial pilot studies were underway, Consigli determined that it was more effective to treat waste reduction as a company-wide program rather than an isolated activity on select jobsites.  In the latter approach, it became necessary to differentiate policies, creating confusion among employees and subcontractors.  With a uniform policy, the method of waste handling could be standardized.  Consigli established a source separation program on all jobsites in mid-2002.

The Four Tier System

Based on the waste management hierarchy (going from best to worst option, in environmental terms) of reduce, reuse, recycle/compost, incinerate or deposit in a landfill, Consigli established a four-tier system:

Tier I: Direct Reuse and Recycling

  • Materials 100 percent reused or recycled
  • Materials recycled by Consigli on the same jobsite or another Consigli site
  • Materials recycled with plant or manufacturer
  • Consigli equipment typically used
  • Outside cost of disposal and haul avoided

Directly recycled materials can include wood, concrete, asphalt, brick, metal, ceiling tiles, carpet, paper, gypsum board, plastics, oil filters, fuel filters, antifreeze, wiring and electrical fixtures.

Tier II: Source Separated Materials

  • Materials 100 percent recycled
  • Materials source separated by Consigli in segregated dumpsters
  • Waste haulers used to deliver materials to destination
  • Established reduced removal fees for source separated materials
  • Standard haul rate incurred


Source separation includes the six materials proposed in the DEP ban: wood, concrete, asphalt, brick, metal and cardboard.  Other materials such as gypsum board have also been included.

Tier III: Mixed C&D to Offsite Separation

  • Direct Recycling (Tier I) and Source Separation (Tier II) are not possible
  • Material goes to a mixed C&D dumpster and is separated offsite (Metal, Wood, Cardboard and Masonry)
  • Highest disposal fee and haul incurred
  • Only a portion of materials recycled and remaining waste is deposited at a landfill

Tier IV: Mixed C&D to Landfills

  • Direct Recycling (Tier I) and Source Separation (Tier II) and Offsite Separation (Tier III) are not possible
  • Material goes to a mixed C&D dumpster
  • Disposal fee and haul incurred
  • All waste is deposited at a landfill

Employee Training and Compliance

Consigli established an in-house Environmental Protection Committee, or "Green Team," with representation from all company departments, to develop and monitor the company's environmental policies.  One of its first tasks was to create a waste reduction plan with action items for implementation.

Orientation for all staff is mandatory.  Before any ground is broken, project management teams develop a recycling plan for all materials expected to be generated. At each site, a Consigli employee is given responsibility to monitor compliance with the plan and status is monitored regularly and reviewed monthly.

Subcontractor Compliance

Consigli conducts specific orientation and training activities for all subcontractors. The program description and goals are provided and standard recycling language is used in all subcontracts.  Site and dumpster signage is mandatory. Subcontractors are notified by contract and in jobsite signage that penalties will be charged to any subcontractor for repeat contaminations.

Results to Date

Since implementing the program in the last quarter of 2001, Consigli has achieved an overall waste reduction rate of 72.7 percent on projects with source separation operations.  The five DEP case study projects have accounted for a total of 3,682 tons of C&D waste, of which 3,365 tons, or 91.4 percent, have been diverted from landfills.

Preliminary Findings


Preliminary findings show that construction recycling can be cost effective.  Companies can save money by separating construction debris efficiently on-site, thereby off-setting costs to dispose of material.

Compliance requires one person to be responsible for monitoring for the duration of the project.  Advance planning is a must, and plans may differ for each project due to site conditions, location (urban versus rural), size, and construction type (new versus renovation).

Other significant benefits to the program have been employee involvement (enthusiasm is very strong), self-performance capabilities and a centralized yard, as well as good subcontractor buy-in, with few problems or complaints to date.

Help the Environment and Save Money

Consigli has set a goal to be an industry leader in sustainable practices, and believes that waste reduction planning makes sense both environmentally and financially.  By reducing the cost of disposal, the building team can potentially save money and help the environment.

The market for recycled construction materials should grow with industry acknowledgement and acceptance.  Once the Massachusetts C&D ban takes effect, waste management planning and recycling will potentially become cost-neutral or even cost beneficial versus third-party separation and exporting, as hauling and tip-fee incentives are given to contractors that reduce processing labor by source-separating materials.  Based on the results of the Massachusetts initiative, it is expected that other New England and Northeast states will follow suit with similar bans on C&D deposits at landfills, thus diminishing the viability of out-of-state exporting as an option for disposal.

The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) has established an evaluation system to determine which sustainable building practices have been achieved for a specific construction project. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system is comprised of various perquisite criteria that must be met and also awards points for other optional credits. The credits are divided into six sections: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Air Quality and Innovation and Design Process. The total number of points achieved determines the level of LEED certification. Obtaining twenty-six to thirty-two points results in basic LEED certification, thirty-three to thirty-eight points signifies Silver, thirty-nine to fifty-one points is considered Gold, and fifty-two or more points achieves Platinum certification. The contractor can assist in the achievement of numerous criteria within the rating system and can impact the ultimate certification of the project. However, the techniques described in this article primarily assist in achieving Credit #2 of the Materials and Resource Section (MR Cr-2.) This credit awards one point for 50 percent waste reduction and two points for 75 percent waste reduction. By achieving an overall waste reduction rate to date of 72.7 percent and project-specific waste reduction rates of 90 percent or better, Consigli has demonstrated that the two LEED points available through MR Cr-2 can realistically be achieved with proper waste management planning.


Construction Business Owner, April 2006