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Using WasteCap's multistep approach to job site recycling can help projects achieve high diversion rates and LEED credits

July 22, 2013

© Daniel Lundgren |

The word sustainability is often associated with added expense when considered in building projects. WasteCap Resource Solutions, a nonprofit organization based in Milwaukee, has been disproving that theory for the past decade. Its mission has been to provide waste reduction and recycling assistance for the benefit of not only the environment, but also for businesses. For a recycling program to be sustainable and to work, both need to benefit. That is why job site recycling makes so much sense.

Over the last 10 years, WasteCap has helped to divert more than 500,000 tons of debris from landfills while working on more than $4 billion in projects. The organization has done this through implementing job site recycling programs. Establishing the correct job site recycling plan for a given project is important when trying to achieve the best results (cost savings and high recycling rates).

In addition to working on projects for contractors, developers and government entities, WasteCap also educates people on construction and demolition recycling. Each year, the team travels to dozens of locations around the country hosting courses on job site recycling. The Construction and Demolition Waste and Recycling Training and Accreditation course is a day-long course that trains individuals on how to implement a successful program. The course has earned national recognition via the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and is a part of both organizations’ continuing education offerings.

Getting Started
To begin any recycling program, the first question that needs to be answered is, why recycle? Instead, WasteCap’s senior project manager and trainer, Ralph McCall, commonly hears why you should not recycle. “A common reaction we get when asking this question is that you should not recycle because it takes too much time, takes more people and costs too much,” he says.

WasteCap has demonstrated time and again that this is not the case. On-site recycling programs can work efficiently without taking extra time and labor while saving money for the contractor or owner. Also, as many in the construction world know, it is a necessary part of many certification programs, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program.

For projects seeking LEED certification, a possible area for credit lies within the Materials and Resources Credit Two. This credit requires a written and implemented Waste Management Plan in place prior to the start of a project. Construction Waste Management is set up to divert construction, deconstruction and demolition debris from landfills and incineration facilities. There are a total of three possible points that may be earned through recycling: One point for a 50 percent diversion rate; two points for a 75 percent diversion rate; and a third, exemplary performance point for a 95 percent diversion rate.

During the project, it is necessary to retain all weight tickets and weights of items that have left the site in a roll-off container. You will want to compile them into a tracking form in order to report that information at the end of the project. On the tracking form, be sure you include the material description, the hauler information, the destination information and the quantity (with units) diverted.

Job site recycling seems rather straightforward when looking at the program. However, it is important to understand how to implement a successful plan to ensure the greatest savings while achieving your desired recycling goal. WasteCap has always taught a program that can be adapted for every project. Job site recycling needs to take into account all factors to ensure the best results. Typically, materials are site-separated because it allows for a greater recycling rate and higher savings. Still, utilizing a mixed C&D recycling center can be a good complement on some projects.

In the training program WasteCap focuses on 10 steps that will help to set up a successful C&D waste reuse and recycling program. The program WasteCap teaches has been implemented successfully on single projects, company wide for contractors and even throughout entire states.

Coming to a City Near You

Milwaukee-based WasteCap Resource Solutions has scheduled full-day Construction and Demolition Waste and Recycling Training and Accreditation courses in the following cities:

  • September 17: Des Moines, Iowa; hosted by the Iowa Recycling Association
  • Nov. 19: Philadelphia; hosted by the Recycling Markets Center

For more information on these trainings, visit

The Next Steps
Step 1: Commit. Commitment is one of the most important parts of any recycling plan. If there is not commitment to the program then it is essentially set up for failure. A recycling plan needs to be supported by someone with authority over the project and then written into all specifications and contracts. This is done to ensure that everyone knows about recycling from the beginning of the project and all are committed members of the team to ensure the project’s success.

Step 2: Identify Target Materials. For new construction or deconstruction/demolition, identifying materials at the beginning of the project is imperative. It is necessary to know what materials are present and how much of those materials will be present. It also helps you understand which materials will be separated easiest. It would be wise to take a walk-through of the building if it is a deconstruction/demolition project.

Step 3: Select Markets and Haulers. When you know what materials are going to be utilized in the building process, the next logical step is to select the markets for those materials and the haulers who will help you transport and recycle them. It is best to take bids from multiple haulers to ensure the best pricing for each material. You will find that many materials can be recycled for less than what it would be to landfill them, and in some cases you may even get a rebate.

Step 4: Develop a Waste Management Plan. A waste management plan is a requirement for any project interested in applying for LEED certification. A waste management plan has all of the important information for the job site recycling program. It will have the goal for the project and what materials will be recycled to reach that goal. It also talks about the many responsibilities for the program and who is in charge of each of those.

Step 5: Signs and Site Logistics. It is important to remember that any container not properly marked is considered a trash container. WasteCap has spent a long time perfecting signage for job sites. The correct use of signs ensures that contamination will be kept to a minimum. Looking at site logistics can be equally important. Appropriate placement of containers on the site can be crucial. The most important component to remember is that a trash container always needs to be next to a recycling container.

Step 6: Monitor. Monitoring your recycling plan needs to happen every day and contamination needs to be spotted when it happens. It is important that the contamination not only be removed from the container, but the cause of the contamination also needs to be determined. This can help conclude what may be done to ensure it does not become routine.

Step 7: Education & Training. Education and training should happen all the time on a project with job site recycling. It should be addressed at every job site meeting, during worker orientation and during lunches. Everyone should be provided a copy of the job site recycling instructions. It is important that everyone on the project sees how important the recycling program is and that they understand it as well.

Proper signage is a key factor in reducing contamination of recyclable materials.

Step 8: Document. “If you did not document then you did not recycle” is what I like to tell students in my role as WasteCap executive director and trainer. Documenting recycling efforts is a crucial part of any job site recycling program. When documenting there are a number of ways to properly submit your recycling results, but having accurate records of all your hauls is necessary.

Step 9: Adjust. Every program can run into problems. WasteCap has run into a number of hurdles throughout the years while actively managing projects. It is important to recognize the problems and then adjust the program to solve them. It is not always possible to design a perfect plan, but it is always possible to adjust and improve every program.

Step 10: Celebrate Success. The last step is to celebrate the success of the program. An on-site recycling program that saves money while producing great recycling results should be celebrated. The workers on-site should be celebrated for their efforts in helping and a great recycling rate for a project should be celebrated as well. This can be done through recognition in the press or at a number of award events.

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about job site recycling, visit and check for a training event in your area or request private training just for your organization. There are numerous rules and changes related to job site recycling within LEED certification and it is important to ensure organizations are up-to-date. Another great resource to get an organization started is WastecapTRACE, an online documentation program that can walk you through many of the aforementioned steps. More information is available at

WasteCap Resource Solutions has proven time and again that on-site recycling programs can be a benefit for both business and the environment. An on-site recycling program can help a project be more sustainable and save money at the same time. Simply put, the only bad decision is choosing not to recycle on your next project. C&DR

The author is executive director of WasteCap Resource Solutions, Milwaukee, and can be contacted at