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May 4, 2020

C&D recycler survey shows businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19

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In an effort to quantify the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on C&D recyclers in the U.S., Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine sent out a survey to industry professionals beginning on March 24.

The results paint a stark picture of businesses affected by facility closures, diminished volumes, personnel layoffs and other challenges.

Here are the highlights:

  • 30.65 percent of respondents report having one or more of their facilities ordered closed by state officials or having one or more facilities idled voluntarily by an operational decision.
  • For those businesses that handle material generated at construction or demolition sites, 29.03 percent say inbound flow has been severely affected.
  • Since the escalation of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in mid-March, 32.26 percent of businesses say layoffs have occurred, 20.97 say layoffs are being considered, 1.61 percent say they are adding staff, and 45.16 percent say no change in personnel levels is anticipated.
  • To communicate operational changes and updates, 73.77 percent of businesses say they are relying on email, 63.93 percent are using telephone communication, 31.15 percent are communicating on their websites, 26.23 percent are using social media, and 27.87 percent are utilizing printed flyers or memos.

As part of the survey, respondents were also asked for their anonymous thoughts on how COVID-19 was affecting their businesses. Here are some of their responses:

“Everyone is holding back due to being unsure of the future. Some construction companies are now even doing their own demo [work] they are so slow.”

“Market pricing is cratering—severely affecting both our inflow and outflow. Our business is off by 70 percent.”

“The biggest impact will be financially. We will see more and more projects put on hold or new projects not even getting started as COVID-19 continues [to spread]. I anticipate many operations will not survive.”

C&D recycling industry talks COVID-19 impact

The Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) held a conference call with several mixed C&D recyclers April 3 to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses throughout the country.

Here are some of the highlights:

On how the virus is impacting volumes:

  • According to the CDRA, everyone is seeing reduced volumes of material coming into their plants, even in those areas not yet hard hit by the virus.
  • A couple bright spots reported include New Jersey and the Midwest, where there has been minimal reported declines in volume. 

On how companies are working on social distancing:

  • Companies report spacing on the picking line is being set at 6 feet, even if that means skipping stations.
  • Some companies are offering hazard pay.

On end markets:

  • Most everyone with a plant operating reported that end markets are still viable, especially with cardboard as retail locations are shut down.
  • There is a fear that because of reduced volumes, end market participants may begin to look for other sources of materials.

On future projections:

  • Most recyclers believe the worst is still yet to come, with expectations being that things might not begin to get back to normal until around June.
  • Although the future of the construction market is murky, there will be a huge gap in business and revenues that will be difficult to make up no matter how much work comes back.