California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Innovations Case Studies

Summary: C&D Recycling Plans and Policies

Download full version of C&D Recycling Plans and Policies

A major opportunity exists for meeting the State’s waste diversion goals by recycling construction and demolition (C&D) debris. Mixed C&D recycling facilities in the state are routinely recovering 60 to 90 percent of all the materials brought to them. Literally hundreds of reuse, recycling, and composting businesses are available to process source-separated materials from C&D throughout the state.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) recognizes the importance of C&D recycling in meeting the State’s 50 percent waste diversion goal. In November 1997, the CalRecycle adopted C&D recycling as one of four major initiatives in its strategic plan to achieve the requirements of the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB 939, Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989).

C&D materials originate in the construction and demolition of buildings, roads, homes, tenant improvements, landscaping, hardscaping (nonorganic materials used in landscaping design), and site clearing activities. This waste stream includes, among other items: concrete, asphalt, soils, gypsum, wood, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, brick, corrugated cardboard, soils, trees, shrubs, and many miscellaneous and composite materials.

Approximately 11.6 percent of solid waste disposed in California is C&D debris. This amounts to more than 4 million tons of waste disposed every year.

Community C&D Recycling Plans

Community C&D recycling plans provide information on how local governments can encourage companies hauling C&D materials to reduce their disposal in landfills. They can also encourage reduction and reuse of wastes at the source of generation.

Local governments have adopted a wide variety of policies and programs to divert C&D debris from landfills. Following are some examples.

In 1999, for the first time, two communities in California developed comprehensive C&D recycling plans. In May 1999, the County of Santa Barbara found that 14 percent of the total waste deposited at the county’s landfill was C&D debris.

The City of Hawthorne, California also developed and adopted a community C&D plan on October 1, 1999.

C&D practices are changing rapidly, creating many opportunities to increase C&D diversion. The best plans use a variety of tools and strategies that are effective regardless of the success or failure of any one program component.

C&D processing facilities that extract recyclables from mixed waste are beginning to emerge throughout the state. Cities are adopting a wide range of initiatives to encourage and/or require C&D recycling, including mandates that set minimum recycling requirements on haulers and contractors. These efforts allow better tracking of local C&D practices.

Tools and Strategies for C&D Plans

Communities can reduce C&D debris using the following tools and strategies:

  • Promotion, education, and technical assistance
  • Planning requirements (e.g., by contractors and project developers for waste management)
  • Reporting requirements (results of the waste management plans)
  • Diversion requirements
  • Deconstruction requirements (e.g., allow for deconstruction before demolition)
  • Pre-processing requirements (processing of all C&D debris before landfilling)
  • Pre-approved sites (sites arranged before the need for managing diverted materials arises; especially useful as part of disaster plans)
  • Economic tools (e.g., deposits and franchise fees that decrease as recycling rates increase)
  • Market development (e.g., create demand through buying recycled building products for projects)

C&D plans allow communities to determine the tools and strategies that best apply to local economic conditions, political realities, and individual projects.  These tools and strategies may be applied to those initiating or involved in the project:  city agencies and departments, franchised/non-franchised haulers, recyclers, construction contractors, demolition contractors, builders, developers, permit applicants, and/or homeowners or property owners.

How a community uses a tool or strategy might depend on the type of project, such as those in the following categories:  municipal only; private only; projects of a particular dollar amount or size; or all construction and demolition activities within the city.

Construction and demolition ordinances can be found on CalRecycle’s C&D Web page. These can be useful when considering, adopting, and implementing any of these tools and strategies as part of a C&D planning process.


Pursuant to contract (IWM-C8028) with the University of California at Santa Cruz for a series of 24 studies and summaries, Gary Liss & Associates prepared this summary.

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: October 5, 2015
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