California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Innovations Case Studies

Summary: Mixed C&D Processors

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Overview

Over the past decade, a new generation of recyclers has developed throughout the State of California.  Hundreds of businesses reuse, recycle, and compost materials source-separated from construction and demolition (C&D) projects.  A significant new development is the availability of mixed C&D processors.

These new facilities are able to process materials from mixed loads of C&D debris for reuse, recycling, and/or composting.  These service providers vary in their recycling processes, capacity, diversion rates, reporting systems, specifications, and collection services.  To accomplish this heavy task, processors use a variety of hand labor, specialized materials handling equipment, and mechanized sorting systems.

These mixed C&D facilities offer the opportunity for local governments to consider a range of new policies and programs that could result in much higher rates of recycling of C&D debris than in the past.

Communities that have a mixed C&D processor within an economical hauling distance can now require C&D debris to be processed before landfilling. This could apply to a franchised hauler only, or it could be associated with a landfill ban or source separation requirement.

If mixed C&D processing facilities do not exist nearby, communities could work to develop them or issue a request for proposals for the service of mixed C&D processing.

Program Characteristics

Hundreds of independent companies can provide reuse, recycling, and composting services for materials recovered from construction and demolition projects. For a list of C&D recyclers including mixed C&D processors in California, see the CalRecycle’s Facility Information Toolbox.

Mixed C&D loads are typically taken back to processing yards for sorting of the recyclable materials. Materials sorted include wood, gypsum drywall, scrap metals, brick, metal, and/or concrete combinations and other salvageable items.

Diversion rates vary by company.  Some of the factors that affect the diversion rate include the use of manual or mechanical processes, source-separation versus mixed-debris processing, and type of materials handled. Mixed-debris processing rates can vary from 10 percent when using manual labor to 95 percent when using high-capacity equipment.

Documenting accurate recycling rates for C&D loads processed, particularly for mixed-debris processing, can be a challenge. In communities with C&D processing facilities around the nation, recyclers are increasingly reporting 80 to 95 percent diversion rates for C&D debris.  In some areas of California, facilities are available for haulers to achieve those levels of diversion today.

Costs, Economics, and Benefits

Mixed C&D waste may cost more to recycle when compared to local landfilling and transfer station options.  However, if C&D costs are considered on a project basis, savings from the recycling of other clean source-separated C&D materials (e.g., clean concrete and scrap metal) may offset increased costs for mixed C&D processing.  High volumes of mixed C&D materials could result in lower tipping fees from mixed processing facilities. Communities could require their franchised haulers to use mixed C&D processing facilities if they are available.  They could include additional costs as an “allowable cost” in the next rate review process.

Local Government Challenges and Opportunities

The availability of C&D recycling facilities offers a number of options for local governments.  In areas with available facilities, communities can encourage or require the processing of some or all C&D debris.  In other areas, communities may be able to help businesses develop local facilities.  They could also encourage existing mixed C&D recyclers to expand to their area. Different tools could be used to encourage or require the use of mixed processing facilities, including:

  • Incentives of lower city fees for builders if they process all C&D materials or meet targeted diversion goals.
  • Technical assistance to residents, contractors, and developers on where to reuse, recycle, or compost C&D debris.
  • Requirements to pre-sort all C&D generated from city-sponsored C&D projects.
  • Requirements that all C&D projects, public or private, process all C&D debris for reuse, recycling, or composting.
  • Requirements that a city’s franchise hauler process all C&D debris that it collects before any can be landfilled.

Credits/Disclaimer

Pursuant to contract (IWM-C8028) with the University of California at Santa Cruz for a series of 24 studies and summaries, Gary Liss & Associates researched and wrote this summary for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

The statements and conclusions in this summary are those of the contractor and not necessarily those of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), its employees, or the State of California. In addition, the data in this report was provided by local sources but not independently verified. The State and its contractors make no warranty, express or implied, and assume no liability for the information contained in this text. Any mention of commercial products, companies or processes shall not be construed as an endorsement of such products or processes.

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Last updated: December 15, 2016
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