Construction & Demolition Recycling – Ethical, Financial, and Legal Considerations
A few years before working for DTG Recycle, I bought a duplex in Renton and did a full remodel inside and out. I had a lot of garbage to clean up, as well as construction and demolition materials. Not knowing any better, I borrowed my friends dump trailer and headed off to the transfer station. On my second visit the nice lady informed me that I was not allowed to dump construction material in the garbage landfill in King County, that it was illegal!
I thought to myself, “Well where do you take it then?” To a designated Construction and Demolition (C&D) material recovery facility. She allowed me to dump the last load as I had a good amount of garbage and brush and various materials. It was expensive and difficult to maneuver with the dump trailer at the transfer station, but I made it work and did not think any more of it.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself working in my current position and learning the ins and outs of the garbage and recycling industry. C&D waste make up one-third of the solid waste generated in the county according to King County’s 2018 Waste Division Annual Report. That is no small amount. Is it any wonder that given our limited remaining space in our garbage landfills, that they enacted laws governing where C&D material should go? There are even special landfills that only accept C&D waste to save the limited space in garbage landfills.
Beginning in 2016, taking recyclable C&D materials to the garbage landfill is against the law, punishable by a $100 fine for the first offense, $500 the second offense, and a doubling of the previous fine for subsequent infractions. According to King County’s website, in some cases violators may be subject to prosecution as a misdemeanor, which may result in further fines or incarceration. King Country contracts with the King County Sheriff’s department to enforce the laws, and undercover deputies visit jobsites and waste facilities to monitor compliance. Seattle has a similar, but stricter, set of laws that are enforced by them at the municipal level.
While some exceptions are made (such as using your pickup truck, or items that are not recyclable) it does put many landlords, homeowners, and construction companies at risk of enforcement. The problem is most people are not aware of the law. I certainly had no clue when I did my rental property remodel. Currently in Pierce and Snohomish County there are no legal restrictions for dumping this material at a garbage landfill or transfer station. But that brings me to my next two points.
Other than the law, there are ethical and financial considerations to look at. In our region, recycling, sustainability, and green building is important to our tenants, clients, etc. We all have a moral obligation to lessen our impact on this earth and our community for those who follow. But more than that, if it is important to our customers or tenants, then it should be important to us. Carpet, wood, drywall, plastic, metal, concrete, asphalt, cardboard, mattresses, tires, etc., can all be taken to C&D material recovery facilities. And you do not need to sort them, you can bring them in commingled/mixed.
The additional benefit though is the cost to recycle your “garbage” from these cleanup or construction projects is less than the garbage. Why? Well the materials have a value, and when sorted and processed and shipped to the right vendors and manufacturers it reduces the cost to process the materials. Those cost savings are passed on to the customer, versus the garbage landfill where there is no value to the material. So even when there is no legal requirement to do so, there is a large financial consequence to throw it away in a garbage landfill. $50 to $100 more per ton depending on the material and where you take it. That adds up fast!
At the end of the day, recycling your materials is less expensive, ethical, and in some areas, the only legally compliant method. Unfortunately, there just has not been good education on people’s options or the laws, and I hope that this article helps to clear some of the confusion up. In the future I would love to be able to share with everyone about the various methods and ways they can look into whether recycling is right for their business, and how to go about it.
In the meantime, you can visit the website of the county your project or property is in for more information on where to recycle the material. And for more information on the law and where to take material in King County or Seattle, you can visit their respective websites.
And you can always reach out to your local C&D material recovery facility for more information or questions about your project or materials.
Ryan Jackman was born and raised in the Seattle region. He first joined RHAWA in 2016 for his duplex. He began in the construction industry working for a home flipping company in 2005. Since then he has spent most of his career in finance, sales, and marketing. Most recently he sold and rented heavy equipment for 5 years before joining the DTG Recycle team in early 2019. He is always happy to help anyone with their questions, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 877-8236. You can visit dtgrecycle.com to learn more about where to take your materials and the services they provide.