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September 21, 2018
High performance & sustainability

A City of Chicago ordinance requires recycling 50% of all construction waste. Pepper goes beyond that and recycles on average, 90 percent of construction waste on every project. How do we set up our facilities to be able to achieve our goal of recycling 90 percent of all waste? 

Pepper Construction waste recycling process

To begin the process, during the early stages of construction we send material haulers a construction waste management plan. This plan contains information about the materials to be recycled, quantity, disposal method and handling procedure so that the haulers know what to expect when picking up the waste. Once demolition and construction have started, there are two different ways that the waste on site can be organized. Waste can either be separated based on its material stream or comingled. When waste is separated, each material from a different stream such as concrete, drywall and paper is separated into different bins to be sent to a recycling facility. If the waste is comingled, then all waste regardless of the material steam is disposed of into the same recycling bin to be sorted later at a recycling facility off site.

Once the hauling company receives the waste management plan and the waste is organized at the site, the haulers come to transfer the materials to a variety of different recycling facilities. I recently had the chance to tour a local waste hauler to find out step by step what happens to the construction waste after it leaves our sites.

Upon arrival at the recycling facility, trucks weigh in. After the trucks are weighed, all waste is separated into categories. A fork lift picks up the waste to transport to a conveyor belt where workers are there to sort everything by hand. Each worker is assigned a material type and takes that specific material off the conveyor belt as it goes by, to place into a separate pile. Once those piles get to a substantial amount, they are then shipped out to a customer or to a third-party recycling facility where the material can either be broken down or repurposed in different ways.

Based on the material and its size, waste is distributed to a variety of interesting places after the recycling facility. For example, concrete is often crushed and sent to manufacturers to be used in future concrete mixes. Additionally, wood can be repurposed as mulch and sold to residential customers or transformed into different sized pallets in demolition situations. We also partner with various companies that participate in buyback programs as another option to recycle the waste from our sites. These programs are popular with carpet and acoustical ceiling tile materials.

Pepper believes that each project creates a unique opportunity for us to give back to the community. We strive to go above and beyond the local ordinance of recycling waste because of the significant impact that recycling has on the environment. According to Earth911, in the US alone, out of an estimated 251 million tons of consumer solid waste that is generated annually, as much as 40 percent of that is from construction projects. Recycling helps to reduce the amount of methane pollution caused by waste in landfills and reduces demand for raw resources. Recycling 90 percent of our construction waste is just one of the ways Pepper plays a role in making a positive impact on our environment, and the people that live within it.

About the Author

Evan Caprile

Evan Caprile, LEED® GA, GACPProject Engineer, High Performance, Illinois

Evan joined the high performance group because he wanted to wanted to make the environment more sustainable for the people who use the buildings and the neighborhoods in which they are located. As project engineer, Evan manages the LEED documentation and green building process on current projects in the higher education, K-12, healthcare and retail markets. He also uses his previous estimating and virtual construction experience to do energy modeling, which assesses the efficiency of a building in the design stages of the job, and evaluates the life cycle costs of building systems in conjunction with our cost estimating.

Evan is LEED Green Associate Certified and a Green Advantage Certified Professional and is a member of the United States Green Building Council Emerging Professionals. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in History from Miami University.