Builders responsible for much of waste sent to landfills


Builders responsible for much of waste sent to landfills; Failure to promote recycling nationally slows any greening of construction industry

The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
Tue Oct 26 2010
Page: B6
Section: What’s Happening?
Byline: Shelagh McNally
Source: For Postmedia News

The Canadian construction industry took a giant leap forward in environmentally responsible practices with the first application here in 2003 of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building rating system, which rates building projects on their sustainability.

When Built Green Canada was created in 2006, home builders and renovators took the opportunity to go green as well.

Construction firms such as Windmill Developments and TAS DesignBuild began building green office and condominium complexes, commercial complexes and planned communities across Canada. To date more than 15,000 homes have registered with Built Green Canada.

“The biggest inroads in the last few years have been awareness. Green across the board is becoming the trend. There is still a lot more to do but the shift has been good,” says Mazyar Mortazavi, principal at TAS DesignBuild.

But while new homes and buildings are becoming more sustainable, the construction industry appears to have stalled in reducing its waste. Environment Canada estimates that the construction, renovation and demolition (CRD) sector is responsible for up to 33 per cent of solid waste — 11 million tonnes of CRD waste is being sent to landfills annually.

“Recycling is still antiquated in Canada. We are years behind Europe and the (United) States. LEED initiatives need to be pushed forward,” says Dave Fusek, vice-president, business development, Quantum Murray.

“We need buy-in from both the seller and the purchaser but the companies handling the recycling also have more work to do,” he says.

Large commercial sites have been more successful at recycling simply because they have the luxury of space to set up individual separation bins. Fusek estimates 60 per cent to 80 per cent of demolition scrap metal and rubble is now being diverted from landfills. “A few years ago it was only 40 per cent,” he says.

It’s a different story for residential construction. A 2006 study by the Recycling Council of Ontario found that 95 per cent of CRD waste was from residential demolition and renovation, and non-residential demolition. Most of this waste — including wood, gypsum drywall, corrugated cardboard, metal, and some plastics — is recyclable.

But with few waste haulers and recycling centres available to home builders and renovators, these recyclable materials often end up in landfills. The Construction Recycling Initiative (CRI) estimates 33,600 tonnes of drywall is shipped to landfills annually from the National Capital Region alone.

“One of the biggest challenges is that there is often no place to send the material except to a landfill. There are not many recycling centres for construction material, particularly in the more rural areas, and its often more costly to recycle than send it to landfill,” says David Bengert, president, Built Green Canada.

“Sometimes it’s easier for a builder to simply pay the higher dumping fees and pass that cost onto the consumer,” Bengert says. “Industry will is there but we are lacking the infrastructure for a recycling program.”

The United States has experienced some success through material exchange and recycling networks. The Construction Waste Management Database created by the National Institute of Building Sciences offers an online national listing of companies that haul, collect and process recyclable CRD debris.

Canada has no national database and provincial startups have met with mixed success. The Calgary Materials Exchange and British Columbia Industrial Materials Exchange are operating, but other sites, such as the Nova Scotia Materials Exchange, have shut down due to lack of traffic.

“More incentives are the key to get more people involved. Residential recycling is lagging behind simply because corporations have both the money and incentives to go green,” Fusek says. “Environmental legacy is a hot topic in the commercial sector right now.”

Without government legislation, many sources say, recycling programs are not going to become more widespread.

“We need more government legislation to help fund the development of a recycling infrastructure. We need to encourage builders to recycle by giving them the facilities and make recycling a standard procedure,” Bengert says.

• Colour Photo: Postmedia News / A construction worker transfers broken drywall material from a Landmark Homes job site to a recycling bin in Edmonton

Edition: Final
Story Type: News
Length: 647 words
Idnumber: 201010260054