FHPSB Technical Guidance
This page contains document links to Construction Criteria Base

Construction Waste

General Principles and Commitments

During a project's planning stage, identify local recycling and salvage operations that could process site related waste. Program the design to recycle or salvage at least 50 percent construction, demolition and land clearing waste, excluding soil, where markets or on-site recycling opportunities exist.

Technical Guidance


Disposing of construction and demolition (C&D) waste materials is usually a small part of a larger construction project or development. However, C&D waste management is becoming more problematic as the environmental and economic consequences are becoming more evident.

In 2003, the US EPA estimated roughly 164 million tons of C&D waste from buildings were generated in the US annually. Of this quantity, 9% was construction waste, 38% was renovation waste material, and 53% was demolition debris. C&D waste constitutes an estimated 25% to 40% of the national solid waste stream. Local jurisdictions may experience higher C&D debris burdens. For example, over half of Wisconsin's solid waste stream consists of C&D debris. Some Army installations' C&D waste constitutes 80% of their solid waste stream. Only 25-35% of C&D materials from buildings were estimated to be recycled. While recycling C&D materials may not be the norm, there is case study evidence to verify that salvage, reuse, and recycling is a viable alternatives to landfilling waste and debris materials, and can be accomplished within the practical, budget, and schedule constraints of a construction or demolition project. At some sites, demolition debris diversion of over 90% and construction waste diversion of over 75% are being achieved through salvage for reuse or resale, recycling, composting, and other diversion methods. These waste reduction levels are often being achieved at lower costs than if all materials are disposed in a landfill.

Salvaging and recycling C&D materials is not without challenges. Waste diversion should be incorporated into project objectives and requirements, not added as an afterthought. As schedule and budget constraints become fixed, there is less tolerance for additional materials salvage or recycling tasks under a perception that additional cost and time will be required. Hazardous materials such as Lead-based paint or asbestos may complicate reuse and recycling. Used materials and recycling services and outlets are not uniformly present in all regions of the US, and construction professionals may be unfamiliar with these capabilities. Also, certain C&D materials, such as steel or asphalt, can be recycled more cost effectively than others. None of these issues is insurmountable. C&D waste reduction must become a fundamental component of a project's development, and can be with some adjustments to conventional business practices.

MOU Clarifications

Measure construction waste reduction and demolition debris diversion by weight. Calculate the reduction and diversion rate by dividing the quantity of materials diverted from the waste stream by the sum of the quantity of materials diverted from the waste stream plus the quantity of materials disposed of by landfilling. In other words, divide the quantity of materials diverted from the waste stream by the total potential waste or debris quantity if all materials were landfilled.

Diversion does not include using materials for landfill alternate daily cover on landfills or materials that are incinerated or used as fuel in waste-to-energy processes.

Related Mandates

Additional Considerations

Require the demolition or construction contractor to develop a C&D Waste Management Plan for all new construction, renovation, or demolition contracts. This allows the Contractor to identify their own salvage, reuse, and recycling services, and the types and quantities of materials that can reasonably be diverted from the waste stream within reasonable budget constraints. This allows the Owner (the Government agency in this case) to review and approve the plan prior to issuing a Notice to Proceed, and ensures the Contractor is putting forth a good faith effort to divert the maximum waste practical under the circumstances. Upon approval, the Owner monitors actual diversion performance to ensure compliance with the C&D Waste Management Plan as part of their overall Quality Assurance program.

Support the Contractor in achieving the specified C&D waste reduction goals. Compile sources of salvage, deconstruction, used building material resale outlets, recycling, and other services in the region. Provide these sources to the Contractor; and allow them to make the arrangements as appropriate for their operations and diversion requirements. Once compiled, this will serve as a source for the Owner's (Government agency's) continued use.

The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers provides model guide spec language to assist agencies in meeting these requirements.

Major Resources


Design Objectives

Sustainable—Use Greener Materials


Construction Waste Management Database

Model Contract and Specification Language


Case Studies